Haunted by the Past by Tom Neil

I walked through the woods, thick clouds hung in the sky, between skeletal grabbing fingers of bare branches which threatened to pluck them from the sky. The sunlight peeked through, barely illuminating the rough country trail ahead of me. It was late November and a frigid chill had firmly entrenched itself in the surrounding wilderness, further inclement weather was promised, but right now it was tolerable, although I still felt the cold burrow its way deep into my bones. 

I stopped for a moment, the path was clear but rough, I rubbed my gloved hands together, and clicked on the head mounted torch which brightened the trail. The faint light was fading, as dusk and the setting sun choked off the last gasps of the day.

I thought about what had brought me here, in a word…ghosts. I had been fascinated by the supernatural my entire life, and I became more certain as I got older that I would be the one to prove the existence of spirits. It had consumed my life for the past five years, pretty much since my parents died, and a hobby had turned into an obsession. I was so sure however, that I would be able to find a ghost, and once I did, maybe I’d even find them.

So I traveled all the way across the country, from New York, to the small town of Hood River, Oregon because I had found a place that promised what I was looking for. 

There was an old cabin, and that’s where I was heading. It had once been a small hunting lodge, and then it had been a check-in station for forest rangers, who policed the nearby Mt. Hood National Forest, and finally it had fallen back into personal ownership, changing hands over a dozen times in as many years. People bought it, because the land surrounding it was beautiful, with wildlife, literally within spitting distance of a national park, with links to the local town for supplies. To some it would be idyllic, and yet it could not retain an owner or keep an active presence for more than a few weeks or months at a time.

As the night took over, and the path became more precarious, I took my time, I flicked a small switch on the device attached to my belt and was met with a consistent static buzzing. It was an EMF reader, and if what I’d researched was true, then this would detect the otherwise imperceptible changes in the electromagnetic field left by ghosts, so I kept one ear tuned to it as I closed in on the property.

It was so cold, but that had nothing to do with my apprehension as I took the last few steps. I was now standing on the porch, and I felt dizzy, it was like the world was spinning beneath my feet. Something was begging me, screaming at me to turn back now. I could not breathe, I could not see. I charged forward, my hand meeting the handle which had been in front of me before the dizzy spell and I blindly charged forward.

It stopped. I was over the threshold and I was here. I wondered what had happened. Maybe the result of anxiety coupled with four hours sleep and just a few granola bars to fuel me on my forty hour drive, or perhaps it was the spirit. Maybe, just maybe, this was what met all visitors upon arrival. It would certainly explain why they hadn’t stayed.

I glanced back behind me, the forest was dark, cold and quiet, the trees surrounding the cabin were like devilish, grotesque entities looming on the former lodge. I took another step forward and closed the front door behind me.

There were also signs of wear and tear, as nature and the local wildlife had encroached on the empty cabin, I could see the remains of a few unlucky critters, and animal waste in the corners as well. This house smelled like death, a decay that seemed embedded in the walls.

I dropped my bag by the door and removed the four compact camping lanterns from my bag, hoping that the light once added to the property would make it less foreboding. 

I looked around, to my right was a staircase, and slightly further beyond a small kitchen/dining space, and to my left, was the main room, with dust covered sofas, and a mounted moose on the wall above a large fireplace. In its finer days, assuming it had any, the property would have been small but cozy, but it had lost all its charm as it died a slow death from lack of care.

I placed a light in the kitchen area and the living area and decided to check out the rest of the property, and climbed the stairs. I expected them to creak and moan beneath me, unaccustomed to weight, but they made no noise, like I wasn’t even standing on them.

I made it to the top, and glanced to my left and then right, on the left was a small hallway with three doors, one right at the end, and the other two facing each other about halfway down the corridor. On my right was the bathroom, I knew that because the door hung partly off its frame, and a replacement was left unfitted next to it.

I sat another lamp in the upper hallway to better illuminate the place, and kept the fourth, to carry with me from room to room. I entered the bathroom first, everything was in a state of disuse but nonetheless seemed fairly ordinary.

I retraced my steps, and went to the left. I opened the first door, to reveal a modest little bedroom, with a small single bed, a bedside table, and a lamp. On the floor by the table was a book, yellowed with age, still folded face down on the floor, the spine long since broken from the conditions. I ignored the door straight ahead for the moment and instead approached the door at the end of the hallway, which if I was correct was the space I wanted.

I opened the door and was met with a much bigger room, with a double bed, a dresser and a duplicate of the fireplace I had seen downstairs. My EMF reader popped and crackled. I wasn’t 100% sure if this constituted anything supernatural, but I had heard this room was a hot spot and so it was where I would mount my assault.

Returning downstairs for a moment, I grabbed from my bag a cross, a small notebook and pen, a clump of dry herbs in a ziplock bag and a candle and lighter before returning to the master bedroom upstairs. 

I started by placing a cross right in the center of the room, it should theoretically trap or agitate a spirit, emboldening it into further action. I placed the notebook on the floor near the cross, with the pen placed on top of it. This would allow the spirit to communicate with me.

I placed the candle on the dresser, and lit it. The flame not only further illuminated the dark room, but the light, if extinguished, could suggest a presence if the ghost was not powerful enough to manifest itself to write.

Lastly, I removed the herbs from the bag, it was a large bulb of sage, I exited the room, and closed the door behind me. Once out, I lit the sage, and began carefully walking back through the house, returning to every other room, smudging the property with the cleansing essence of sage, which would prevent the spirit from manifesting anywhere else but the master bedroom. 

The sage spread out across the large living room downstairs, and purified the space, with all but three avenues blocked for the spirit, I climbed the stairs again. The sage was almost gone, but with the last gasps of smoke, I opened the door upstairs I had previously avoided. It was empty, just a simple closet. 

I popped my head into the darkened space, only to see the remains of an opossum hanging from a clothes rail, its corpse, buzzing with flies, that was not the only interesting thing, glancing down there was a moderate hole in the floor. I could not see the space below but assumed it was some hidden nook or cranny in the walls. 

I returned to the master bedroom at last and sat on the floor, the candle still flickered, the cross remained where I had left it and the notebook was untouched. I unclipped my EMF reader and sat it next to me. Finally, once I was settled, I began to chant, alternating between verses from the bible designed to agitate the restless spirit, and words in latin designed to encourage it to manifest. 

I felt woozy and closed my eyes, this was probably the first time I had been anywhere near comfortable in days. The weight of weeks of planning, the hours of driving, and the years of obsession all seemed to catch up with me at that moment. I felt angry. My parents had been taken away from me, but that wouldn’t be quite so bad if I could prove ghosts exist, if the supernatural was real, then maybe somewhere out there they still existed.

I placed my balled fists on the floor, not quite punching the floor, but exerting considerable force on it with my knuckles. I wanted to scream. I had done everything right. The proper tools, hours of my life spent pouring over books and websites on the occult, and my life savings spent on buying this cabin, because all signs told me this was where I would find a ghost. And I would find it, even if it killed me.

I hadn’t noticed the candle had gone out, it must have been when I closed my eyes. The camp light and my head mounted torch had likewise extinguished. I looked around, and the room looked and felt different. It was like in the few seconds I had my eyes shut, the room had aged, almost imperceptibly, but there seemed like a fresh layer of dust.

Suddenly, I felt calm, I needed to be patient, this was why people had failed until now to prove the existence of ghosts, they got impatient and disheartened. But I wouldn’t. This was my whole life now. It was so damn cold though. It felt darker outside than seemed possible, and as I stood and walked out of the room, I felt horrible, tired and drained, I lurched forward, the results of no sleep were becoming apparent, as I stumbled. I tripped unceremoniously over my own feet and lurched somewhat violently to the right, the closet surrounded me, and then I had the curious sensation of watching it from above me, and I tumbled through the hole in the floor. I was cold.

I couldn’t draw a breath to get help, I just felt my body slowly go limp as feeling left each limb, and as I the light began to dim around me.

That was how I died. Alone. Cold and Afraid. I don’t recall having any poignant last words, but I doubt I would be discovered until the summer. That would give me an awful lot of time to haunt the property. I might not have uncovered the supernatural, but perhaps I would become it instead.

First Published on: https://offtherecordblog.org/

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