Saturday, October 31, 2009

OGSP - Story #17 October Ghost Story Project

The Kelsens

During my senior year, we lived at the end of a cul-du-sac, near the edge of some deep woods. Across the street, was a family with two young boys. The Kelsens. I'd sat for them several times. Every time I came over, their mother reminded me that I wasn't allowed to throw parties while they were gone. I don't know what kind of teenager she'd been, but obviously, she held some dark secrets. I on the other hand would never have thought to do such a thing. I didn't mind her strange attitude toward me because her kids were hilarious.

On Halloween that year, their parents were invited to a party. They asked me to watch the boys. I had been looking forward to hanging out with my friends, but I really needed the money, so I agreed.

The boys and I watched some mildly scary movies, and then we carved jack-o-lanterns. They'd gone out trick or treating before I'd gotten there, so there was an abundance of candy which we nearly overdosed on. As the night grew later, the boys fell asleep on the couch. They'd wanted to wait for their parents, but after midnight, I decided to finally lead them up to their bedrooms.

By three am, I'd fallen asleep on the couch myself. I was woken by the sound of knocking on the front door. At first I wondered if it was more trick-or-treaters... LATE trick-or-treaters, but when I saw the boys' parents peering through the window beside the door, I realized my job was just about over. I thought it was weird that they were knocking on their own door, but I answered it anyway, figuring they'd forgotten their keys or something.

When I opened the door, I realized they looked odder than when they'd left the house earlier that night dressed as Sonny and Cher. Now they appeared to be undead versions of the same. Their skin was caked with pale makeup, and fake blood dripped down their chins. I guessed that they'd picked up creepy contact lenses along the way, because their eyes were now milky white. They smiled at me, and I laughed.

"What the hell happened to you guys? Rough night?" I said.

The Kelsens laughed too, but the sound was odd--empty, as if they were humoring me. "You could say that," Mr. Kelsen answered. "We had a makeover once we got there."

"Looks like it."

"You didn't have any of your friends over, did you?" asked Mrs. Kelsen, glancing past me, as if she were hoping I actually had a house full of teenagers hiding in her closets.

"Uh, no." I stepped out of the way, so they could come into their own house. But they continued to stand on the front steps. It suddenly dawned on me that they were playing a game. "Oh, right. I get it. I have to invite you in."

They laughed again. "Yeah," said Mr. Kelsen. "Vampires now." He gestured at his wife and shrugged.

"Ha ha." I moved farther into the hallway, heading toward the living room to grab my jacket and bookbag. But I soon realized they weren't following me. I turned around to find them still waiting on the doorstep. Now they looked angry.

"Uh, Dan, you have to invite us in," said Mrs. Kelsen sharply.

"Okay!"I joked. "I will on my way out." Remembering how she'd treated me earlier-not trusting me-I didn't feel like continuing the joke. I just wanted to get home, and maybe catch the last few minutes of Carnival of Souls on PBS. Besides, I thought what they were doing was just weird. If they didn't want to come into their own house, that was their own prerogative. "The boys were really good tonight. They didn't throw their dirty socks at me this time."

When I came back to the hallway, the front door was closed and the Kelsens appeared to have gone. I wondered if they'd simply entered the house. But I hadn't heard them and hadn't seen them sneak by me. "Hello?" I called, softly, trying not to wake the kids upstairs.

Too late. I heard voices in their bedrooms. I figured their parents had gone up to say good night. I would have just left, but they hadn't paid me yet. I crept up the stairs. I heard the two boys speaking full voice, behind their closed bedroom door. I knocked and the voices stopped. I heard someone say, "Shh."

I opened the door and was struck by a blast of cold air. Between the twin beds, the window was open, the gauzy curtain blowing in the breeze. The children were sitting on their mattresses, facing the window. The older one, Brian, 7 years old, glanced at the younger one, Kyle, 4, as if telling him silently to keep a secret.

All of sudden, Kyle exclaimed, "Mommy and Daddy are outside."

Brian just looked scared. "They told us to let them in, but not to tell you."

"Not to tell me?" I felt my stomach shrink. "Why not?"

"Mommy says you'll make her sleep outside," Kyle answered.

"I wouldn't do that."

"How can they climb up here from down there?"Brian asked. "Why don't they come in the door?"

I rushed to the window and glanced outside. The parents stood in the grass just below the window, staring back at me. Even though I couldn't see their faces, I knew they were smiling those empty smiles. All I could think was that this was a big joke; the whole family must have been in on it. I began to laugh. And simply to end it all, I called out into the darkness, "Alright, come on in!"

I blinked and Mr. and Mrs. Kelsen were gone. From downstairs, I heard a crashing noise, glass breaking. Kyle screamed and scrambled over to his brother's bed. I closed the window and crept to the open door. "Everything okay down there?" I shouted. But no one answered. "I really have to get going. This has been fun and everything, but... do you have my money?" I was actually freaked out, and I figured getting straight to the point would help me work up the nerve to walk home across the street. "Stay here," I whispered to the kids, shutting the door behind me.

Slowly, I made my way down the stairs to the foyer. "Hello?" I said. Still no answer. I peeked into several rooms only to find them empty. Finally, at the back of the house, I noticed that the large sliding glass doors had been smashed. Glass lay on the carpet just inside. Had the Kelsens done this? And why? I suddenly regretted inviting them back into their own house, but then I remembered: there's no such thing as vampires! I reasoned, sure, it was Halloween, I was babysitting, and I was by myself, the perfect reason to go all Jamie Lee Curtis, but come on!

I heard something behind me and spun, but there was no one there. All reason was sucked from my brain. I felt incredibly vulnerable with the night at my back, so I stepped away from the broken glass.

Suddenly, from the living room at the front of the house, I heard voices. It took me several seconds to realize it was the television. Telling myself I had nothing to be afraid of, I peered into the living room and found Mr. and Mrs. Kelsen sitting on the couch. They were watching an informercial. Together, as if they'd been practicing, they glanced at me and smiled, the fake blood glistening red on their teeth.

"Thanks so much, Dan," said Mrs. Kelsen. "Your money's on the table by the front door."

"What about the broken glass?" I asked. "What happened?"

Mr. Kelsen's head lolled. Mrs. Kelsen chuckled. "My husband's had a little too much to drink. Can you show yourself out?"

I certainly could, and I certainly did. I practically ran home.

Safe in my own bedroom a few minutes later, I watched as the light turned off in Brian and Kyle's bedroom. I figured their parents had finally come in to kiss them goodnight.

I got in bed myself, totally freaked out, but I couldn't fall asleep. I kept thinking about what had happened upstairs. Who had opened that window? Why had they woken their children simply to play a practical joke on me?

Eventually, I dozed off, but a couple hours later, a strange noise woke me up again, or so I thought. It was the sound of skin squeaking on glass. I turned to the window closest to my bed and nearly screamed. Brian and Kyle were staring at me from the darkness. "Let us in," they said. "Mommy and Daddy are scaring us." I leapt from my bed and closed the curtain, shutting out what must have been a nightmare. I turned on the lights and hid under the covers. I closed my eyes trying to fall asleep again, but it didn't happen.

The next day, I told my mother what had happened. She didn't believe me and wasn't amused. She called over there, but no one picked up. The car wasn't in their driveway.

A few weeks went by. One day, a for sale sign appeared on the front lawn. Word spread through the neighborhood that the family had packed up and left in the middle of the night.

I never saw them again.

**** MWAH-hahahahah! Real? Fake? Does it even matter? It's Halloween! And this contest is soon to be over... Leave your vote in the comments. I'll be sending an update in the next few days with a list of which stories actually happened... and which I embellished. Stay tuned... xo Dan****

Friday, October 30, 2009

OGSP - Story #16 October Ghost Story Project

After the Spirit Board

Summer before my senior year of high school, my family moved to a house down the hill on a cul-du-sac near the middle school.

Soon after we'd settled in, strange things started happening. For example, I had this little Felix the Cat stuffed animal which sat on my stereo. One night, I came into my bedroom. When I flicked the lightswitch on the wall, Felix flew full force across the room and tumbled onto the floor next to my bed. I didn't know what to do... I wondered if "Orin" had followed me from the old house, if that was even possible.

Even weirder, I came into my bedroom one afternoon and found a CD case (remember those?) standing on end on the edge of one of my dresser drawers which had been pulled out slightly. It was a jarring image. I asked the rest of my family if they were messing around. I got a great big weird-looking Nope. Again, I had a feeling it was "Orin."

The next year we moved again, this time to a condo near the VA hospital. My bedroom was on the ground floor (otherwise known as the basement, but a NICE basement). I had my own bathroom. One night, when I was reading in bed, I happened to glance up at my dresser. Propped up on a dresser drawer was another CD, standing up on its edge.

I got chills.

I was certain that something was following me from house to house. This time, I was hoping it was "Orin." I didn't want to imagine what else it might be. An demonic music fan... maybe?

***vote vote vote! Hurry! Real? Fake? I'll be giving you a book (a GREAT book) for FREE! Why wouldn't you try? Huh? ;^) ****

Thursday, October 29, 2009

OGSP - Story #15 October Ghost Story Project

It's getting closer and closer to Halloween... which means this contest will soon be over! If you've missed any of the October Ghost Stories (and you're super bored at work) check 'em all out. The more you read and vote on, the better your chances to win a signed copy of The Stone Child! That's a $15.99 value for the price of... nothin'!

Okay, now for today's tale...

"The Ouija Board"

After many years of living in the haunted house in Basking Ridge, NJ, nothing shocked or surprised my family. We'd heard strange howling sounds. Lights that were off when we went to bed at night, would be left on in the morning. Doors would open and close by themselves. We'd hear footsteps upstairs when we were downstairs, and no one else was home. Sometimes, we heard voices whispering from empty rooms. I saw a dark figure standing at the end of my bed at night.

Of course, as teenagers, it was inevitable that my friends and I would try to figure out who or what was haunting us. One night, we decided to have a seance in my bedroom. We lit a candle and sat on the floor with the flame between us. We turned off the lights. "If anyone is here, give us a sign," we asked again and again. After several minutes with no response, we got bored and started talking about other things... when suddenly, the candle just went out. No rustling flame. No wind or breeze. It just went, ssst. And we were thrown into darkness. We ran screaming from the bedroom. The seance was over.

The summer after my junior year of high school, my parents sold the house. My friends and I came up with the idea to build a Ouija board, to try and receive some answers before my family had to leave. I don't know why it took us so long to try it. I think we were too scared. But with an end point looming, we bit the bullet, just to see what would happen.

On a large white piece of poster board, using a black magic marker, we drew the alphabet, numbers zero through nine, a "yes," a "no," a "hello," and a "goodbye." As a planchette, we used a small slip of paper that had been posted by magnet from the refrigerator door. This slip of paper was covered with writing--phone messages jotted down over time. On the paper, we drew a thick black arrow to point at the board. We didn't have any instructions; we simply used the template of the Parker Brothers game.

The first night, several of us gathered at the kitchen table. Two of us would touch the paper planchette at a time. To our surprise, the planchette began to move almost immediately... It was unclear at first, as if getting used to us. When we asked questions, we received answers.

The board told us that we were speaking with a girl who, for some reason, called herself "Orin."

We asked her how she had died. To our surprise and confusion, she said, "Never lived."

We asked, "Where were you before you were in this house?"

The planchette spelled out, "Tummy."

I kid you not.

"Why are you here? Why don't you leave?" we asked.

"Old vibes," the board said. Whatever that meant...

We ended the night frightened and thrilled. We'd finally made contact with someone in the house, someone who'd been watching my family for years. Now she was talking.

And that was only the beginning...

*** Well? Do you still think I'm only telling stories? Leave your vote in the comments.... ****

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

OGSP - Story #14 October Ghost Story Project

Yet Another Burns Street Disturbance

By now, we all know that my dad and step-mother's house in Queens is haunted... or do we?

Here's another quickie, for all you believers:

Built into the wall separating the dining room and kitchen is a beautiful original cabinet which is accessible from both rooms. You can pull the utensil drawers out from either side. Picture it: you're in the kitchen, and you need a spoon. Open the drawer. Then, at dinner, you need a fork; without getting up from the table, you can open the same drawer from the other side. It goes both ways! There's also a sliding wooden panel where you pass dishes through the wall. And the piece de-resistance--above the counter are several rows of open glass shelves. You can literally look through the cabinets from one room into the next.

I describe this all in such detail for a specific reason. I want to you understand exactly what I saw one night before a dinner party at their house.

I was in the kitchen looking for my dad. Through the glass cabinet, I saw a tall man standing on the other side of the wall with his back toward me. Of course I thought it was my father, so I headed toward the door to speak with him. Strangely, just as I was about to enter the dining room, I thought, "Wouldn't it be weird if there's no one there?"

Well, guess what? Seconds later, as I peered around the door frame, I found the dining room empty. In fact, my dad was upstairs.

I am absolutely positive I saw someone standing in the dining room.

Are you absolutely sure you believe me?

*** leave you vote in the comments below... We're coming toward October's end! Who's gonna win a free copy of The Stone Child???****

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

OGSP - Story #13 October Ghost Story Project

The Driveway

My grandmother's best friend, Bette, lived across the street on Union Point Road in Webster, MA. Both women have since passed away, but I'll never forget Bette's story about her sister, who'd gone missing nearly forty years ago.

When Bette's sister disappeared, she was certain that her sister was dead, and that she'd been the victim of foul play. Bette believed that the sister's husband had murdered her. But her sister's son was still young, and Bette didn't want to upset him by accusing his father of doing such a thing.

Years went by. Bette grew old. Her sister's husband passed away, and the house passed to the son. Bette claimed that one day she'd seen her sister outside in the driveway. Bette was certain her sister's spirit was trying to tell her something. Time and again, the apparition of Bette's sister continued to appear standing on the driveway.

Bette had an idea. Thinking back to when her sister had disappeared, she recalled that her husband had poured a new concrete driveway.

She managed to convince her nephew to investigate the driveway itself. They brought in technology. The state x-rayed the concrete at the old house. They discovered a body.

After years without an answer, Bette was finally able to bury her sister... in a proper grave.

*** Real or made up? Leave your vote in the comments...****

Monday, October 26, 2009

OGSP - Story #12 October Ghost Story Project

The Devil's Tree

Another of the legends in my old town revolves around a lone tree that stood in the middle of a farm field up in the hills. The tree stood at a sharp corner in the road. What made it creepy was that the tree only grew leaves once every few years. Some years, it was just barren.

People say that way back in the nineteenth century, criminals were hung from this tree. Now, the legends tells that every midnight you can see a body hanging from the branches.

What do you think my friends and I did with this information when we were in high school? Uh-huh. That's right.

We used to go up there all the time. We never saw any bodies hanging from the trees, but it was certainly a spooky place. We would bring a camera. Once, I took a picture of the tree trunk. A large firey orb floated in front of it.

One time, I went up to the tree during the day with another friend of mine. Again, I brought my camera. We took pictures of the tree, trying to see if anything else might show up in the shots. We also took snaps of the surrounding field and forest and road. We didn't see anything that day, but when the photos came back from the lab, you might have thought we had. In a couple pictures, there were wispy strands of fog. In one photo of the road leading into the nearby woods was one particularly thick patch of fog. I immediately noticed a face staring back at me from the center of the gray mist.

Frustratingly, I lost the picture years ago... I really wish I still had it. I would have posted it here for you to judge for yourself.

**** Real or made up? Vote in the comments....****

Sunday, October 25, 2009

OGSP - Story #11 October Ghost Story Project

The Yowl

My sister and I were home alone one night at the house in Basking Ridge, New Jersey, the one we were pretty sure was haunted. My mom was taking an evening class. My brother was away at school.

Emily and I had just finished watching the scariest movie ever made (Jacob's Ladder) and, for some reason, decided to go to sleep straightaway. I brushed my teeth and got into bed. I heard the water running down the hallway, as Emily finished up in the bathroom. The water stopped and Emily called out, "Dan? Did you hear that noise?"

"What noise?" I shouted back.

Just then, from what seemed like the bottom of the stairs, a sound erupted--unlike anything I'd ever heard. It was a yowling, howling, growling noise. An awful, hungry animal sound. Deeper than a dog, harsher than a large wild cat. When it stopped, the house was stunned into silence, which made the sound all the more frightening.

I leapt from my bed and dashed down the hall. I found Emily cowering in the bathroom, her toothbrush still in hand. Her eyes were wide--stunned. I probably looked the same way. It was a late fall night, so all the windows were closed. The sound had definitely come from inside the house.

Maybe it was our imaginations reacting to the scary movie that turned what might have seemed, on any other night, like an ordinary noise, into a horror-show... but we didn't think so. This sound was as real and as crazy as anything I'd ever heard.

"Okay," I said. "Let's be calm." I grabbed a disposible shaver from the counter (because that would protect us!) and trying to be a "big brother," decided we needed to check it out. You have to understand that until this point, we'd be hearing and seeing things in this house for years... so what was one more disturbance?

Hestitating, my sister slowly followed me down the stairs. "Hello?" we called out, but received no answer. After quickly, scanning the kitchen and the dining room and finding nothing, Emily and I decided to turn on the lights and watch some television, something cheerful and silly, until Mom got home.

But after a few minutes, from the other side of the house came a loud banging noise. Immediately, Emily grew frantic. "Let's call the neighbors."

"No, wait..." I said. I didn't want to get anyone else involved... since we'd dealt with stuff like this all the time. "Let's check it out." Emily followed me to the living room, I think, mostly because she didn't want to be left alone in the family room. Along the way, we turned on the rest of the lights. Once in the living room, we found nothing out of place... nothing that could have created the banging sound we'd just heard.

We crept back to the television and turned it up even louder...

Minutes later, we heard a noise in the family room, where we sat. Something was brushing against the walls. We rubbed against the heating vents, creating a soft shing-shing-shing sound, over and over.

That was the final straw. I grabbed the phone and called a neighbor. I told them I thought someone was in the house, because I was pretty sure they wouldn't have come if I told them that I thought we were being haunted.

The neighbors showed up just as my mother came home. We all searched every corner of the house but found nothing out of place... I'm not sure how I got to sleep that night, but eventually I did.

Later, my older brother, Brendan would make fun of me and Em, for claiming to heard that howling, growling noise at the bottom of the stairs. After several years though, at a party, he pulled me aside and said, "I need to apologize to you."

"For what?"

He'd been watching one of those paranormal phenomenon shows on the Discovery network, this one being about Electronic Voice Phenomena, or EVP. EVP is the capturing of ghostly voices on tape... for "scientific" purposes.

Brendan explained that the final section of the show described people who had heard growling and howling sounds in their houses and captured them on tape. Brendan said they played some for him. The noises gave him chills. They'd sounded exactly what Emily and I had described years earlier.

At this point, I'd never heard of growls being heard in haunted houses by anyone else, but my brother's apology certainly freaked me out.

I never heard anything like it again. Thank goodness.

***Your turn! Real or made up.... Vote in the comment section below...***

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

OGSP - Story #10 October Ghost Story Project

"The Drowned Dog"

Home from college one summer, I went to visit my friend, Greg, whose family rented a house down at Long Beach Island on the Jersey Shore. Greg and I spent the day in the water, body-surfing, building sand-castles, napping and reading. At dusk, we went on a walk far south of where he was staying. We were so caught up in our conversation, we almost didn't notice the small crowd gathered at high-tide water mark. There were a few police standing around a dark lump on the sand. Walking closer, we saw that the lump was actually a dog. A yellow lab.

At first, I wondered why he was laying there. It seemed like a strange place to take a nap. Then, I noticed its tongue lolling from its mouth, quite long and purple. It's stomach was fat, like it had swallowed a watermelon.

"Is that dog...?" Greg started.

"It's dead," I finished. The thing looked like a corpse from a television crime scene, played by an animal actor. It almost seemed like it could have stood up and shaken itself out, the way dogs instinctively do when they're wet.

We figured it must have gotten swept out into the ocean somehow, then washed up on the beach.

Disturbed, we walked back to his family's place just as the sun was setting. Over dinner, we told the story of what we'd seen. Greg's mother wasn't too happy about it--not good meal-time conversation.

Later, when Greg and I were watching television, a neighbor, an older woman, stopped by. We heard her chatting with Greg's parents in the kitchen. Eventually, they called to us. His parents were pale.

"What's wrong?" Greg asked.

They asked us again what kind of dog we'd seen on the beach. When we reminded them, the neighbor nearly fainted. She had a yellow lab. Charlemagne. He was missing.

Greg's mother asked the neighbor when was the last time she'd seen him. The neighbor said the dog had been playing in her fenced-yard all afternoon. She'd checked on him from the kitchen window less than an hour earlier and had watching him rolling in the grass, chewing on a piece of rawhide. But later, when she went out to feed him, he wasn't there. The fence had been unlatched. She was afraid someone had come by and let him out.

We explained that if she'd seen Charlemagne less than an hour ago, she had nothing to worry about, at least when it came to the dog on the beach. We'd encountered him at least three hours earlier.

But the next day, when Charlemagne hadn't returned, Greg's neighbor went to the police. They confirmed that the dog they'd found was in fact poor Charlemagne. We were all devastated.

The thing we couldn't figure out though was how the neighbor had seen the dog out in her yard, even after we'd already walked by his body washed up on the shore. Maybe her eyes had been playing tricks... or maybe the dead dog had learned a new one.

***You know the rules by now.... Vote in the comments section below... If you dare!***

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

OGSP - Story #9 October Ghost Story Project

Ethan's telling me I should write a story called, "You Could See Right Through the Chicken," but I think I'm going to wait on that one for now...

Tonight's tale instead is called "Another Burns Street Disturbance"

So now we all know that my dad and step-mother's house in Forest Hills is haunted. Right? Remember the tape measure and the attic?

Here's another one from my father.

During the renovations, my dad and step-mom hired a contractor to work on their kitchen. One day, the contractor couldn't find the knob he'd bought for a particular appliance. He searched and searched all of his materials, but the knob had disappeared, so my father volunteered to drive out to Home Depot for a replacement while the contractor continued to work. But when my dad got to the store, the contractor called on his cell phone, asking him to come home.

When my father returned, he found the contractor standing on the sidewalk, looking pale. "What's wrong?" my dad asked, already sensing the answer. The contractor sheepishly explained that something had freaked him out, then he proceeded to tell his own story.

The way the guy worked was: he would lay out all of his materials and tools on a white drop cloth so he could keep track of them. This is where he was certain he'd left the knob before it had disappeared. After my father left for the store, the contractor went back to his drop cloth to retrieve a particular tool, a wrench, let's say, but now the wrench was missing from the drop cloth as well.

According to the contractor, something told him to go out to his truck, that he'd find what he was looking for out there. So the guy went out to his truck. To his surprise, in an obscure corner of an old tool box, he found... not the wrench... but the knob that had earlier disappeared. What was strange was that he didn't use this tool box very often; in fact, he hadn't touched the container for quite some time. He had no idea how the knob had gotten there. Feeling freaked out, he brought the knob back inside, and was about to call my father at Home Depot, when he noticed that the wrench had somehow reappeared on the white drop cloth at his feet...

That was when the contractor called my father and decided to wait for him outside.

Two strange stories now about ghostly happenings during construction--could it be the ghost was unhappy about the changes being made to her house? Or was she only trying to be helpful?

**** Or did I make the whole thing up? Leave your vote in the comments below for your chance to win a signed copy of my book... ****

Reading this Sunday!!!!

If you're in the NYC area this Sunday, come on out to Books of Wonder in Chelsea for the Fantastic Fiction event. Nine very cool authors reading from their very cool books. Signing. Answering questions. The usual...

Sunday OCTOBER 18TH, 1:00 - 3:00PM

Books of Wonder
18 West 18th Street
New York, NY 10011

Sunday, October 11, 2009

OGSP - Story #8 October Ghost Story Project

"Mrs. Lee"

Let me start by saying: This is a weird one. True or not, that's for you to decide, but either way, it's weird.

Several years ago, I went to a wedding in Cincinnati. My friends Kathy and Leon were tying the knot. Another friend, Caroline, was kind enough to let me sleep on the futon in the living room of her apartment.

The rehearsal dinner was lovely. Afterward, Caroline drove us back to her place, and we stayed up late watching The Simpsons on DVD. Eventually, we went to bed. The futon was comfy enough, but just before dawn, something strange happened. I sort of woke up. I say "sort of," because it didn't quite feel like waking... especially when I felt the presence of an old woman drift into the room through an open window. When the old woman lay down on the futon next to me and began speaking, I figured I must have been dreaming. She spoke for a long time, telling me the story of her life. I listened intently, knowing, for some reason, that her story was very important to remember.

As the sun brightened the room even more, I drifted closer toward consciousness, and soon I knew the woman would have to leave. I realized that I couldn't remember what the old woman had told me. "I need to remember you," I told her. "How?"

"You'll know me by the name Lee," she said.

"Lee?" I asked.

And she spelled it for me. "L-E-E."

I woke up and was alone, of course, the dream clinging to the corners of the room like cobwebs.

When Caroline got out of bed, I told her about the dream. "Do you know anyone named Lee?"

I certainly didn't.

She said she didn't either but suggested I call my friend Kathy who was getting married that day. I knew it was important, and what could have been more important than the wedding we were to attend that day? Kathy said she'd known someone with that name in high school. "How did she spell it?" I asked.

"Leigh," said Kathy, and I knew that wasn't it.

Anyway, Caroline and I went to the wedding and had a blast. I passed off the encounter with the old woman as nothing more than a dream. By the next morning, I'd nearly forgotten all about it.

I left for the airport that afternoon. I found my seat on the plane and opened the book I was reading. At the last second, a woman and her daughter boarded. The mother took the window seat next to me, and the daughter had the seat in front of her. Almost immediately, the woman began talking to me. At first I was annoyed, but I quickly warmed up to her. She was charming and sweet and funny. She told me about the book she was writing about her awful husband. I told her about the book I was writing--some massive brick of a first novel which will never ever be published, though at the time, it was all I could think about.

Eventually, it came out that I was working at a cancer hospital... The woman's face changed. "I'm just coming back to New York from my mother's funeral in Texas. She had cancer." I told her I was sorry for her loss. We spoke a bit more about my job, and that was that.

By the time we were about to land, we finally introduced ourselves. I told her my name, and she asked my family heritage. "My father is 100% Polish," I explained.

"Oh, I come from a long line of old Southern families. We have names like Adams. Lee. We're related to General Robert E. Lee. In fact, my that's my maiden name."

My mouth dropped open, and the woman looked concerned. "Lee?" I asked. "L-E-E?"

The woman nodded, and I tried my best to recount the dream I'd had the morning prior. She just looked at me strangely, not quite getting it...

But, if there was a puzzle to piece together, I'd finally managed to find the parts. If this woman's maiden name was Lee, then that was her mother's last name as well--the old woman who had only just passed away that week and whose funeral had been held the day before...

The plane landed, and the woman and I wished each other luck with our books and our futures. She said nothing more to me about my dream, or vision, or whatever the hell it had been. Then we parted.

I like to believe that she was merely being polite... that deep inside, she was touched by what I'd told her... by the old woman I'd seen and her story, which I couldn't quite remember.

**** Come on... that one's gotta be fake, right? Or is it??? Leave your vote in the comments below for a chance to win a signed copy of The Stone Child...****

Saturday, October 10, 2009

OGSP - Story #7 October Ghost Story Project


My older brother and I always enjoyed tormenting our little sister--in a loving way of course--if only because she made it so easy. My mom used to call Emily "Me-too" because anything my brother and I had or did, she wanted, to be part of the boys or something. She didn't want to be left out. And if she was, she got mad!

So how could I resist the opportunity, when I was in middle school, to try and scare her the same way my brother and I would scare each other. You know, by jumping out from around corners? (Sound familiar?)

One Saturday morning, I heard my sister moving around in the bathroom and turn on the shower. She'd left her bedroom door open, and I noticed her bed was unmade. Breaking all sorts of house rules, I crept into her room and hid under the covers, trying to make myself inconspicuous.

A few minutes later, I heard the shower turn off. I clenched all my muscles, giddy with the anticipation of making her scream when I leapt out and surprised her. (I know, I was cruel, don't judge me.) Seconds later, the bathroom door opened, and I heard footsteps in the hallway. My sister walked purposely toward me, and didn't stop until she was standing right next to the bed. I knew I'd been caught--especially when she leaned over and started breathing on my face. I could feel it through the sheet. In the back of my mind, I wondered how she'd known I was there so quickly. I figured I didn't have anything to lose by whipping the sheets away and screaming, "Boo!"

No one was there.

In fact, I could still hear my sister moving around in the bathroom. The door was still closed.

Chills raced across my skin. I jumped out of the bed, realizing that even though I hadn't been caught by Emily, I'd certainly been caught by something.

****Did I make this one up too? Leave your vote in the comments for another chance to win a signed copy of my book, The Stone Child... Results will be announced after the best day of the year--Halloween!****

Thursday, October 8, 2009

OGSP - Story #6 October Ghost Story Project

"The Bullet Hole"

When I was in high school, my friend Grace had several puppy-sitting jobs. One of the families she whose dogs she cared for lived in the hills far west of our town. Sometimes, she asked me to tag along. I loved playing with the dogs, but there was also something compelling about visiting the homes of these people who were away. Empty houses feel entirely different from ones that are occupied--sad, lonely... all the obvious stuff. This one house was even stranger. Not only was it an oddly shaped, seven story modern with an indoor swimming pool, but it had once belonged to someone who'd supposedly been the victim of a mob shooting.

That's right--someone had been murdered in the puppy-sitting house. I wasn't sure if I believed Grace at first, but when I saw the bullet hole which, for some reason, was STILL in the window of the indoor pool room, I knew that something bad had happened there.

I was highly invested in all-things "ghost" at the time, so I was extremely curious to spend some time in the house, even if it was only to help Grace change the doggie food bowls and water. When I entered through the garage, I felt odd. Maybe it was the house's seclusion up in the hills. Maybe it was knowing the house's history. I almost expected to find a dead man lurking around every corner. All we found though were two grotesquely cute Lhasa Apsos who were very happy to see us.

Grace and I spent some time playing with the dogs. Then, as she cleaned up the kitchen, I wandered to the base of the stairs in the grand foyer. That was where I first heard the voices.

Moving closer to the stairs, I heard them more clearly, a soft whispering, which actually sounded like a radio or television had been left on somewhere upstairs. I couldn't make out any words, but the sound was clearly there. I asked my friend if the owners had left a stereo playing... she gave me a look, and I brought her to the base of the stairs. "Do you hear it?" I asked. She nodded.

Together, we ascended the steps, the dogs locked in the kitchen behind us. At the first landing, we encountered a large living room with a cathedral ceiling. But the stereo was off and we couldn't find a television. And yet, the whispering sound was still there if we listened closely. But only near the stairs. If we moved away, the sound stopped.

We climbed the next set flight, which wound up the center of the house in a clunky spiral. At each floor we looked for some electronic device which might have been left on, and at each floor, we found nothing.

Finally we came to the top, the master bedroom. On a nearby shelf was a television set! But the screen was dark and as I peeked at the cord, I found the tv unplugged.

Grace and I couldn't figure out where the sound was coming from, and at that point, we weren't sure we wanted an answer...

Especially as we came back to the base of the stairs and found all of the foyer lights turned on. Funny. We hadn't left them that way...

Grace and I quickly said goodbye to the poor pups and went outside. Driving away, I couldn't help but catch a glimpse of the bullet hole in the window behind us and wonder what secret someone might have been trying to whisper to us.

****Did I make this one up??? Really? How can you be so sure...? Leave your vote in the comments for another chance to win a signed copy of my book, The Stone Child... Results will be announced after the best day of the year--Halloween!****

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

OGSP - Story #5 October Ghost Story Project

"The Hounds of Blairsden"

When I was in high school, my friends and I would drive around the Bernardsville Mountains, trying to defeat our boredom. Though my corner of New Jersey was filled with more local legends per acre than anywhere else I've ever lived, those roads were particularly ripe with folklore. And at night, they were terrifying.

If you grew up in Basking Ridge, you must have heard about Jacob's Ladder, the old winding road through the hills with the seven pronounced bumps, under which it was told were buried seven bodies.

One of the stories I'll never forget has to do with an old estate which stood at the top of a steep hill, overlooking a large mirror-like pond. Blairsden. The mansion's name was carved into a stone wall at the estate's ruined gate, just above a terribly creepy relief of a goat's head. That's right... a freakin' goat's head greeted any trespassers who were nervy enough to cross the gated off bridge which led from the road across a small creek. Past the gate was an abandoned driveway which hugged an overgrown hillside and which, once upon a time, led up the hill to the stone house at the top. I was a curious teenager. I explored this driveway one afternoon with a friend of mine. The scariest thing that happened to us was when we got back in my car and realized we were crawling with ticks.

But Blairsden came with a much creepier history than a mere insect infestation.

The house's story went like this: Blairsden was built by rich young man for his new bride. But before they even had a chance to share their perfect love nest, the poor girl died. The young man was left inconsolable. He moved into the house by himself. Supposedly, he bought himself a number of hunting dogs for sport, and also to keep himself company.

The dogs, however were no comfort. The man fell into a deep depression. One night, he drowned each dog in the pond at the base of the hill, before taking his own life.

A sad story... but it doesn't end there. Legend says that if you look into the water in the dead of night, you can see the glowing red eyes of the dogs looking back at you.

My friends and I would often freak ourselves out by driving by the pond, but we never saw the red lights for ourselves. This didn't stop us from trying... or going even further.

Though Blairsden's old driveway was locked and crumbling, a newer driveway had been built on the other side of the hill. The mansion itself had been turned into a rest home for retired nuns... or so we believed... which somehow made the house even spookier. On several occasions, my friends and I would drive all the way up to the house at night. Thinking back on it now, it seems like quite a rude thing to do, bothering the nuns like that. But at the time, we cherished every thrill we could get.

Past a ten foot wall, the driveway circled a long thin reflecting pool. Along the wall were stone busts of important looking men. My friends and I would drive quickly past them, holding our breath, hoping the nuns wouldn't chase us off the property... or call the police.

The last time I drove up to Blairsden, I was by myself. I'd come home on a break from college, and one night, I decided to check out the place for old-time's sake--the best kind of sake when you're on a break from college. The leaves were off the trees and the hills were especially dark. I pulled into the mansion's long driveway and tried to make my way up to the top, but when I reached the wall, I found the entrance chained off. I figured that maybe one too many people had had the same idea as my friends and I over the years, and the nuns had had enough.

I had put the car into reverse and was trying to pull a k-turn, when looking over my shoulder, I saw someone walking in the road behind me. I nearly hit him. The red tail lights reflected off a man in a long coat. He didn't look at me. Just kept walking by. I pulled forward and up the road. Looking into the rearview mirror, I noticed that he was walking at least four large dogs. I swear one of them looked back at me, its eyes glowing red...

I drove as fast as I could away from there...

I tried to fall asleep at my mom's house, but all night long, I heard a dog barking in the woods outside. I haven't been back to Blairsden since.

**** What do you think??? Real story, or did I make it up? Leave your vote in the comments below... Keep coming back. The more you vote, the better your chance to win a signed copy of The Stone Child. Winner will be revealed after Halloween!*****

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

OGSP - Story #4 (October Ghost Story Project)

"The Lady in Red"

Believe it or not, I actually went to college for acting.

Syracuse University. Woo-hoo.

Our acting classes were held in a building down the hill from the main campus. This building housed the university theater (The Storch) as well as a professional regional theater called Syracuse Stage.

I first heard about the Lady in Red when I was working at the box office for Syracuse Stage. One of my co-workers told me that the theater was haunted by a woman, an actress, wearing a red dress. Supposedly, this woman didn't like being upstaged. She would grow jealous of anyone else who wore red on Syracuse Stage. There were countless stories of strange mishaps when one of the actors was costumed in red.

My co-worker told me her story: she'd been working late in the box office and was about to leave, when she found the door locked. From the outside. The problem was, the door didn't lock from the outside. She was alone in the theater and had to call her partner to help get her out. But when help arrived, the door wasn't locked anymore. Weird...

Okay... but here's what happened to me when I was in a show with someone who wore red.

It was my junior year, and I'd been cast in Syracuse Stage's production of Three Tall Women, by Edward Albee. I played the non-speaking role of The Boy. Basically, the three tall women were my mother... (surreal, I know). My role was to come onstage in the second act, sit by my dying mother, and weep. Very difficult to do night after night, with any authenticity. I'm pretty sure I used all my tears up during rehearsals.

One of the three tall women was made to wear a 1960's style red chiffon dress in the second act. Right from the start, this dress gave our actress problems. The first time she even tried it on, her shoe heel caught on the hem and tore a huge hole at the bottom. By the time the show was up and running, our actress couldn't get out of that dress fast enough, and began undressing in the hallway before she ever made it to her dressing room.

Anyway, I spent most of the show in my own dressing room, listening to the dialogue piped in through speakers. Opening night, a friend of mine gave me a single red rose in a small vase. I had placed the vase on the counter next to my dressing room mirror. As I sat listening to the play, untouched, the vase tipped toward me and spilled the rose's water all over the floor. Unnerved, I scrambled to wipe up the mess. I couldn't think of how the vase had tipped over by itself. I felt like it was the Lady in Red wishing me luck...

Like I said, it was difficult eventually to come up with tears on stage, but when I did, they flowed. After one performance when the boo-hooing was authentic, I rushed offstage after my scene and heard someone call my name from a storage room. Clear as day, a woman said, "Dan!"

Thinking it was one of my stage-hand friends, I looked all around that side of the stage for the person who called my name. But no one was around. No was had been near enough to say my name that loud, enough for me to believe they were within poking distance...

When I realized I was completely alone in the dark backstage, I hurried downstairs toward the light and the possibility of company.

****Real or made-up??? Vote in the comments for a chance to win a signed copy of the Stone Child...!****

Monday, October 5, 2009

OGSP - Story #3

"The Burns Street Disturbance"

A few years ago, my father and step-mother bought a row house in Forest Hills Gardens in Queens, NY. It's a beautiful neighborhood with lots of history -- actually designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. Lots of tudor-style houses and buildings... nearly a century old.

The house my parents bought is four stories tall -- a living room, dining room and kitchen on the first floor, two bedrooms and a bath on the second, two more beds and another bath on the third, and below it all, a large basement. Before they moved in, they did many renovations. During construction, I went to see the place for the first time. As I made my way to the top floor, I felt strange, that we weren't alone up there. It was the way I used to feel in our house in New Jersey-the haunted one- like someone was watching me. I said nothing to my father. I didn't want to frighten him in his new house.

Yet, as I stood there, my father exclaimed, "The neighbors' kids say this place is haunted."

I got chills. I nodded. "I can feel it."

"This room in particular," my father continued, pointing at one of the top-floor bedrooms. He smiled, amused.

"Guess we'll see what happens," I finished.

A few months later, my father called me. "You'll never believe what happened," he said. "Or actually, maybe you will..."

This is his story.

One night, my father was in the attic of his new house, working on the air vents. The light had grown dim, and he had no flashlight to see by. He managed to crawl toward the hatch which led to the ladder. He climbed down the ladder, which brought him to the closet in the front bedroom on the top floor. The electricity had been turned off on this floor, and the only light to see by shone from the stairwell.

My father passed through the room, went through the door, out into the hallway and had started down the stairs to work on a separate project, when he realized that his measuring tape was not on his tool belt. Thinking that he'd left it up in the attic, he crossed back through the bedroom, entered the closet, and climbed the ladder into the darkness again. But as he floundered blindly in the attic for the tape, he quickly realized that he wouldn't have been able to find his own nose if it hadn't been attached to his face. So he gave up the search.

He climbed back down the ladder and was about to cross through the bedroom for the third time in less than five minutes when he realized something was now blocking his path. An object that had not been there moments earlier... Stretched out across the floor, in front of the bedroom door, was the measuring tape.

Surprised, my father picked up the tape, attached it to his belt and called out for the house to hear, "Thank you!"

If it had been me, I'm pretty sure I would have shouted something else...

****Real story or made up??? Leave your vote in the comments... Keep coming back every day to vote. Whoever leaves the most correct responses will win a signed copy of The Stone Child!****

Sunday, October 4, 2009

OGSP - Story #2

"Hell Shower"

During my junior year at Syracuse University, my roommates and I lived on the first floor of a triple decker apartment building off-campus. There were four bedrooms, but only three of us.

Of course, I believed it was haunted.

For example... we had a large plant which sat in the corner of our living room. One night, I watched as all the leaves and branches began to shake, as if someone were brushing a hand through them. But no one was near the plant. I wondered if I was seeing things until my roommate's two cats rushed over to the corner and stared at the plant with me. The rustling stopped, but I was still freaked out. I'm pretty sure the cats were too.

Another time, out of the corner of my eye, in this same corner of the living room, I saw a large shadowy figure standing there watching me. When I looked directly at it, it disappeared, but when I turned away, I could still see it standing there in my peripheral vision.

The weirdest room in the apartment was the bathroom, which was in the long hallway near the front door. One night, I came home with a friend to find we had the apartment to ourselves. Or so we thought, because as we came into the living room, we heard someone moving around. The lights were off in the apartment. I dragged my friend back to the front hallway. "Hello?" I called out, as I turned on the hall light. The sounds from the bathroom stopped. But the door was closed, so we couldn't see inside.

Of course.

We were freaking out as we slowly pushed the door open. I quickly flicked the light switch on, only to find the shower curtain drawn shut.

Of course.

"Hello?" I said again weakly, as my friend groaned in fear. But we received no answer. After a few seconds, I decided to suck it up and be a big boy. I reached out and pulled the curtain back. The shower was empty. However, one of my roommate's disposable shavers lay conspicuously in the middle of the tub.

My friend and I sighed in relief, and quickly forgot about it.

But soon, I was forced to remember. One morning before class, shortly after this incident, I was taking a shower. The way the bathtub was set up, there were shelves built into the faucet side of the shower as well as the opposite wall. These shelves were where we kept our shampoo and shower gels and whatever else we thought we needed in order to stay clean. On this particular morning, I was rinsing my hair when every single bottle sitting on these two shelves flew from their perches and struck me. Literally, the bottles flew several feet through the air to hit my body, hard. I cried out in shock and pain. Then I slowly put them back where they belonged.

This continued to happen again and again, until I finally started shouting at whatever it was to knock it off. And it started to happen to my other roommates as well. The bottles would fly from the shower shelves all at once, but only when we were in there. I might have dismissed the incidences as caused by gravity and a slanty old building, but with the other stuff we'd seen and heard in the house, we believed that a spirit who lived with us had something against us bathing... As ridiculous as that sounds...

****What do you believe??? Real story? Or fake? Leave your vote in the comments below... oh, and spread the word about the contest... Most correct guesses wins a signed copy of The Stone Child!****

Saturday, October 3, 2009

October Ghost Story Project (OGSP)- Story Number 1

"The Eye at the Door"

The first time I ever saw a ghost, I was twelve years old.

I was in the upstairs bathroom brushing my teeth one evening. In the mirror, I noticed that someone was watching me through a crack in the door behind me. I clearly saw an eye come up and peek at me for several seconds. A few seconds later, it disappeared. At first, the sight of the eyeball frightened me. But by the time I spit out my toothpaste, I had concluded that my older brother was standing out in the hallway, preparing to jump in at me when I swung the door open. "Dummy," I thought. "He thinks I didn't notice him."

So I decided to jump out first. I yanked the door inward and shouted, "Boo!" But to my surprise, my brother was not standing in the doorway. Oh, I thought, he must by hiding just around the corner. So, I leapt into the hallway, determined to get him back, and shrieked, "Yah!" Again, I found I was alone.

The hallway was dark, as were the bedrooms. My brother's bedroom door was open, and I figured that if he was the one who'd been watching me through the crack in the door, he must have managed to run and hide in there. I crept toward his bedroom, growing uneasy. I'd never imagined my brother to be so stealthy.

As I entered his room and turned on the light, I tentatively called out his name. But I found the room empty. Obviously, I received no answer.

By now, I was getting scared. Whoever had been watching me brush my teeth must still be upstairs. He couldn't have had enough time to creep away, I thought. I rushed downstairs toward the light of the kitchen if only to get away from the feeling that I was still being watched, that he might leapt out and grab my arm... or worse.

I found my mother sitting on the couch, reading the L.L. Bean catalogue. "Mom," I said, "Is Brendan home?" My brother.

She shook her head. "It's just you and me," she said.

Chills rattled my body. "Someone was upstairs watching me brush my teeth just now. I saw them through the crack in the door."

My mother looked amused. "I've been down here for awhile. No one else is home."

She wanted me to believe that I had simply imagined the eye at the door.

But as I got in bed that night, I couldn't be certain of what I'd seen at all.

**** So what do you think? Real or not? Leave your vote in the comments!****

October Ghost Story Project Announcement

Since it's finally October, officially the coolest calendar month, I decided to push myself to do a little experiment.

Part contest, part just-for-fun, I'm going to try and write, until Oct. 31, at least one ghost story per day.

Those of you who know me understand that I've always had a fascination with ghost stories, so much so that, when I moved to New Jersey at eleven, I eventually came to believe that our house was totally haunted.

Ever since then, I've had a love/hate situation with the ghosts in my life... ;^)

Anyway, the October Ghost Story Project goes like this - I will write down a daily ghost story here on this blog. Some of them will be true, some of them will be fiction.

You will write in the comments whether or not you think the story is true. (True meaning--it actually happened to me or someone I know.) The more ghost stories you read on the blog, the more you can vote. And at the end of the month, who ever has guessed the most correctly wins a signed copy of The Stone Child, my first book!

Happy Hauntings,