Fiction

Pond Ghost

By R. Patrick Murtha

I was living in Sacramento at the time in the '70s. I was a junior in college, working full-time in the Sleep Lab, taking 16 semester hours of classes, newly married and with a new house (actually, built in 1930s, but it was our "first") and already getting a reputation for "ghost busting." (I hate that term, but at the time the movie had just come out and it was impossible to mention "ghost" without someone piping in "Who ya gonna call?")

One evening a neighbor came by dragging another neighbor we had yet to meet. He seemed a little hesitant and embarrassed but had been mentioning to our other neighbor about some weird stuff that had been happening around his house. Actually, these things would only happen once a year; on June 15th. Objects would move around. Particularly, the nice heavy "mantle clock" just above the fireplace and, oddly, lots of tools and stuff in the garage out back. Just as oddly all the fish in their backyard pond had died, every year they'd lived there, all on the same day; June 15th. Well, guess what day it was? Correctomundo.

After hearing the story I obligingly agreed to walk over and just "get the feel" of the place without any commitments or bringing any of my equipment with me. I didn't realize at the time just how upset he and his family were because he kept apologizing for bothering me and stuff so I just wanted to go over, take a peek, tell 'em everything was going to be ok and it was probably all caused by their pre-teen son who was something of a "hellraiser" in the neighborhood. Now HIM I knew. I figured the kid was jokin' on his parents just to get a rise out of them or something..

Anyway, as soon as I entered the house I knew something was going on BIGTIME! The hair on my arms stood straight up, my mouth went dry and as soon as I stepped into the living room and was about to shake hands with the lady of the house the clock on the mantle started chiming loudly. It was 8 minutes before 7 p.m. and clocks don't usually chime at that increment so we all glanced over to it and it started to immediately turn in a circle sitting on the hardwood recess just above the fireplace only 5 feet from me. It was an older, heavy piece of clockwork weighing nearly 5 pounds. And it simply started to turn in a circle on its 3 little pads supporting it. We stood there, just staring at it, and as the back of the clock got to the outside I looked at them both with my jaw down at my ankles and started to say something...anything…when there was a very distinct whisper that blew through the room. It said, quite clearly..."Theee pooooond...the ponnnnd." There was nothing subtle about it and as the whisper continued for about 20 seconds I looked around the room at the husband, the wife and the boy and there was no way any of them were faking this sound.

"See what I mean?" the husband asked as the clock came to a rest in perfect synch with the end of the whisper, exactly where it started. I immediately went over to it, looked over, under and around it for some explanation. No wires, no magnets, nothing. I picked it up carefully and set it back down and it immediately started turning again. I jumped back 5 feet, nearly knocking over the wife.

"GOD!" I exclaimed...my eyes bugged out, my mouth open. I had never witnessed such an obvious event up to that time and was sorry I hadn't brought my camera with me.

It turned out that the clock had been left by the previous owners...those folks that had originally built and lived in the house the first 40 years it was there. "We found it out in the garage, along with a couple of boxes of stuff like photo albums, paper clippings and the like." the husband explained.

"And THAT." the wife finished. They were a lot more relaxed about this than I, having now gotten used to the yearly going's on around the house.

Over the period of the next six months of investigation, including bringing in one of my "sensitive" friends who'd helped me on other investigations and doing a lot of reading through the paper clippings and photos in the boxes, I became to realize that something very wrong was going on. The original owner, Mr. H, was a prominent businessman in town. Partners with his life-long friend who lived next door. The business is still flourishing as I speak.

On June 15th, 20 years previously, there had been a backyard party with Japanese lanterns, a hired band, 100 guests and a big barbecue. The occasion was the opening of their 3rd store in the greater Sacramento area. According to the accounts of the Sacramento Bee and the subsequent police files on the case at approximately 10 minutes to 7 PM, as people were dancing and talking and laughing, Mr. H "accidentally" fell headfirst into the pond unnoticed by his guests and drown. I became convinced, along with my assistant, that his partner had been the cause of his death; either accidentally or on purpose, thereby taking full control of the business (his heirs now own it outright and are millionaires). I was never able to prove this of course, but there were things happening in the garage; particularly when a photo album opened right before the two of us to the page that had a picture of he and his partner. His photo showing a big smile for the camera, his partners' expression was one of contempt and evil undertones and other things that really let us know that his death was anything BUT an accident. Every once in awhile I have a dream where I'm standing over the pond, very much like the one in the photo, and I see Mr. H's body lying there, his partner tiptoeing away in the darkness to join up quietly with a group of partygoers.

Both my partner and I were convinced that Mr. H's business partner had a direct hand in the death of his partner, however, there was not enough evidence; either to take to the police or to defend ourselves in a court of law against slander/libel charges. Very unsettling, to be sure.