Hot House

By R. Patrick Murtha

Chain Border

Hot HouseOne attraction of being interested in such things is the reputation one gets for being a little "weird." I suppose most teenagers strive for conformity, but I liked being on the outside; I won't do more than mention the "ghost groupies," bless their cute little hearts, but they were a definite motivating factor.

After all, there wasn't a lot of excitement in Mascoutah Illinois other than the bowling alley and the occasional tornado. This picture represents one of the most frightening and yet fascinating of all my investigations.

Located on top of the only hill for miles around overlooking the town, one of the founding fathers built an incredibly beautiful tri-level Victorian-era house, circa 1887. Abandoned for 30 years prior to my surreptitious entrance on a hot summer evening, it had certainly seen better times: and yet, the foundation was sound, the wood-flooring solid and the stairs squeek-less. I went in on a dare from my antagonist and best friend Russ; he told of flying ghosties and hair-raising noises that had driven out all potential occupants to this otherwise excellent mansion.

"Spend two little hours in there Pat," he stated authoritatively, "and I'll know you're serious about exploring the 'unknown.'"

Being new to the area I hadn't heard all the warnings and stories and so with a confidence bolstered by Miller beer, I took him up on the dare; I wish I hadn't.

Long story short, within 20 minutes I had witnessed floating balls of luminosity that I still have a hard time explaining to myself; voices that swore to drive me into the depths of hell and forever haunt my tortured soul; large pieces of furniture chasing me from room to room; a banshee-level woman's screams for help that clearly came down the main staircase and approached me to within a foot.

The screams were as real and loud as anything in my experience and backed me into a blind corner where I crouched with hands over ears, screaming loudly myself in absolute, uncontrolled terror. And then she stopped and a second later whispered in my still-ringing ears, "we've been waiting for you for an eternity, thank you..." in the sweetest, most heartfelt voice that was the essence of gratitude.

A luminous ball emerged out of the floor, not a foot from where I crouched; my senses super-keen with the acuity that terror brings, I watched the ball as it swirled and dissipated, then solidified; dissipated once more just feet in front of me in the otherwise pitch-black room. The shadows danced in all corners of the room as the luminous egg floated slowly away and I let out a breath that I must have been holding for 5 minutes!

Instantly, the ball of light grew in intensity as I fumbled with a candle I'd brought. "Come ON! CATCH you SOB!" I hissed at the uncooperative safety match and finally got the wick lit just in time to look up and witness the most ungodly form I've ever seen, or ever hope of seeing. It was coming right at me at double-speed! I bolted to my left, stopped, changed direction while spinning away from the very real THINGS that must have been it's equivalent of hands, as they WHOOOSHED past within an inch of my head.

I dropped the candle when I slammed into the bottom handrail of the main stairway, bounced off as if made of rubber and I ran screaming for the front door. I actually ran THROUGH the outer screen door (it WAS very old, but I think I could have penetrated steel at that point).

I ran headlong through the tangled limbs of ancient bushes and trees. I glanced behind me to see a faint flickering through the front parlor window. Within minutes, as I bent over with hands braced on my knees trying to catch my breath while trying to process all that had happened, the bottom floor of the house caught fire for real and flames started licking out the busted windows, the tendrils reaching skyward as if released from bondage.

"Pat! Pat! What the hell…?!" I heard Russ running up behind me.

"What the HELL is RIGHT, you SonofaBitch!" and I hit him as hard as I could, breaking his nose and sending him tumbling backwards. I turned and watched as the house, now engulfed fully in flames, seemed to glow with otherworldly life; shadows and highlights in the upper windows looked too much like human forms for my sanity, so I turned, picked Russ up and threw him over my shoulder in a "fireman's" carry and trotted off as the far-off wail of sirens approached.

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