Haunted Houses, Coming Full Circle, and the Echoes of Ghost Wolves

Up the road from where I live, there is an old, abandoned house.  It sits back from the road, with overgrown shrubs obscuring the windows, a sagging front porch, a rusty metal roof, and an unlocked bulkhead that leads to what surely is an unfinished basement with a dirt floor and perhaps a tight crawlspace.  I know the bulkhead is unlocked because I tried it once.  It squeaked open without resistance, revealing a descent into darkness.  It was a descent I did not take.

 

The house, you see, is haunted.

Or, at least, some of the locals say it is.  And I don’t doubt them. It’s flanked by mature woodlands that encroach closer and closer with each passing year.  There are no nearby neighbors.  Rarely have I heard the birds sing when I visit the property, as if even they, on an instinctual level, detect a sense of malice and ill will about the place.  Yet, for all that, I feel drawn to the house.  I never go more than a month or two without stopping and looking and wondering.

 

And remembering . . .

********************************

“Hey, let’s go inside!”

My friend Matt uttered these words, but I doubted he wanted to act out on them.  He and I had taken a stroll through the neighborhood.  We didn’t really have a destination or a plan–we were eleven years old.  Who needed plans?  But as if guided by an invisible magnet that zeroed in on preteen boys, we found ourselves in front of the Ivy House.

 

The Ivy House was so named because rows of leafy, green ivy climbed up its clapboard siding like a pack of pythons seeking an unseen but sought-after prey.  It sat at the end of the street, with several tall maples providing shade and making the yard perpetually dark and cool.  It was also empty.  It had been unoccupied as long as I had been alive, and years before, to boot.

 

More riveting still, it was rumored to be cursed.  Stories varied depending on who you talked to.  My brother had told me a murder had occurred at the Ivy House in the 1920s, and the victim’s ghost wandered the rooms and halls, seeking vengeance on anyone she came across.  Matt’s brother had told him an old man once lived there, friendless and ornery.  He ate raw squirrels and racoon hearts, and fed the leftovers to a pet wolf.  This seemed far-fetched, even to my eleven-year-old, imagination-always-on-overdrive brain.  But Matt vouched for its veracity.  “It’s the truth,” he said, solemn as a tax return.  “A wolf.  People used to hear it howl at night.”

 

I nodded.  I still wasn’t sure I believed him.  But I wanted to.

As we stood there, the wind picked up, and I pulled my jacket in tighter.  It was early November, barely above freezing, winter’s approach unmistakable in the air.  Dried, fallen leaves swirled along the street, crackling.

 

“So, you really want to go inside?” I said then.  A woman walking her dog strolled past, giving us a sideways glance, surely wondering what we were doing loitering in front of the Ivy House.

 

Matt hesitated.  Shrugged.

“Chicken,” I said.  The house brooded in front of us, hidden behind the ivy.

You’re the chicken,” he shot back.  I bet you wouldn’t go in there.”

He had a point.  I couldn’t really refute his logic.  But if we both went, together . . .

We didn’t.  We never did.

The Ivy House was torn down a decade later.  A new, cookie-cutter ranch home now sits in its place, the maple trees in the front yard gone, the ivy a memory, a ghost from childhood, an echo whispering across the years.

 

**************************

It’s late October 2017.  On my way to work, early, the sun still a rumor, the sky dark and speckled with stars, I pull over in front of the abandoned house and get out of the car.  I am ahead of schedule on this day.  I have the time.

 

I walk through the front yard, up to the door.  Haunted, is it?  And I remember the Ivy House, the way it seemed animate to me in my boyhood, a living, sentient thing with a heartbeat and a soul.  This house is no different.  Perhaps all houses are alive.  Especially the old ones.

 

As I stand there, a hoot owl calls out, and I hear a rustling in the woods off to the right.  A fisher cat on the prowl?  A rodent rummaging for food?  Pennywise the Dancing Clown, come to Vermont from Derry, Maine?  But nothing emerges, and everything goes silent once again.

 

And I ponder–about life, about time, about the way things often come full circle.  Take Mitchell Brant, for instance.  Nine years ago, I began writing The Eye-Dancers, and the book began with Mitchell.  Now, on the verge of finishing the final edits, of dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s for The Singularity Wheel, the sequel to The Eye-Dancers, I am ending where I began–with Mitchell Brant.  The story ends with him.  He was there at the start.  He is there at the end.  He’s been with me, in spirit, on the written page, vying for my attention and understanding, for nearly a decade.

 

I tip an invisible cap to Mitchell.  To childhood.  To legends and ghosts.  To haunted houses.  To the unlimited vistas of the imagination.  To explorations of the mind and the universe.

 

To the creative life.

And somewhere, in the distance, despite the geographical impossibility of it, I am sure I can hear the howling of a wolf.

 

Thanks so much for reading!

Mike

37 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. ParentingIsFunny
    Nov 02, 2017 @ 19:52:07

    Creepy stuff.

    Reply

  2. The Eye-Dancers
    Nov 02, 2017 @ 19:54:42

    Thank you! I take that as a compliment.:)

    Reply

  3. foodinbooks
    Nov 02, 2017 @ 20:23:07

    I enjoyed that. The haunted houses of our youth often take on that extra intensity that comes from distant memory and age. Do you ever wish you’d taken that journey into Ivy House? A great post!

    Reply

  4. Boo
    Nov 02, 2017 @ 20:28:30

    *rubs arms because of the chills*

    Reply

  5. rmcalzada
    Nov 03, 2017 @ 02:18:06

    “He ate raw squirrels and raccoon hearts, and fed the leftovers to a pet wolf.”

    Now that’s some unsettling imagery! Also, I feel I can relate to your full-circle effect that you’re experiencing with your main character Mitchell. When we create such a strong and well-rounded character, it feels like we’re doing them justice when we close the story so that it centers around him or her. Like Stephen King wrote in The Stand, “Life was such a wheel that no man could stand upon it for long. And it always, at the end, came round to the same place again.”

    Reply

  6. laurelwolfelives
    Nov 03, 2017 @ 17:29:33

    I would have gone in!

    Reply

  7. jjspina
    Nov 05, 2017 @ 02:30:22

    Fascinating post, Mike! Love the haunted houses and the things that go bump in the night. You certainly have a way with words. 🤗

    Reply

  8. Lyn
    Nov 05, 2017 @ 10:49:52

    About twenty years ago, I went on a night tour of the old Sydney Quarantine Station. It’s supposed to be haunted. One part of the tour is through the old hospital where they turn off all the lights to increase the atmosphere. I wonder how “the boys” would have reacted. Each in very different ways, I think 😀

    Reply

  9. natuurfreak
    Nov 06, 2017 @ 13:51:28

    Je hebt het spannend verteld.

    Reply

  10. europasicewolf
    Nov 06, 2017 @ 23:54:35

    Spooky! … I knew I should have been careful where I allowed my hoooOOOOOOOwwwwWWWWWWWLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL to echo! All the way across the realms of time and space and what happens? lol…it ends up finding fame on “The Eye-Dancers” blog!! Careful where you howl in future Wolfie 😉 Haunted houses are fascinating….never got brave enough to go in one, but even as an adult I’m still drawn to forbidden and hidden places…some would call it “urban decay”….disused railway stations…echoing the shouts and cries of the children and adults of a past time…deserted modern buildings shrouded in shadows of mystery and darkness…abandoned hospitals and factories….the echoes of another time and place….and haunted houses!! 🙂 Great post!

    Reply

  11. Karina Pinella
    Nov 08, 2017 @ 00:16:25

    I like the pictures you posted and the spooky atmosphere you built. There’s nothing like good old fashion haunted places.

    Reply

  12. Teagan R. Geneviene
    Nov 13, 2017 @ 20:43:22

    Wonderfully creepy! Hugs.

    Reply

  13. Rilla Z
    Nov 15, 2017 @ 14:50:38

    Those haunted houses scream to the imagination, don’t they? My weakness is a thin, worn trail through the woods. These things that beg a writer for closure can be so satisfying when they are revealed. Glad you’re revealing your Mitchell and finding satisfaction in the ending.

    Reply

  14. The Eye-Dancers
    Nov 15, 2017 @ 15:15:33

    Thanks so much, Rilla! Yes, paths through the woods also beckon and invite.:) I actually explored one just this past weekend!

    Reply

  15. deborahanndykeman
    Nov 15, 2017 @ 16:28:41

    I think we all have a haunted house in our childhood memories. And yes, we were always nudging one another to go inside and check it out. We never did! I’m in the first quarter of your book, and enjoying it. It is taking me a very long time because of my limited book reading time. But I promise it won’t take me as long as it did you to write it! lol I usually read at night when I can’t sleep, and the ‘boys’ have just arrived in the little town. It’s been a bit creepy to read at two in the morning!!! So, that is slowing me down a little. I’m not a day reader. I want to know about that little girl! Great writing!

    Reply

  16. The Eye-Dancers
    Nov 15, 2017 @ 16:37:52

    Thanks so much! And I am very glad to hear you’re enjoying The Eye-Dancers so far.:) Creepy is good.:)

    Reply

  17. ellie894
    Nov 20, 2017 @ 02:20:12

    Always a joy to read you even if it leaves me with those kid heebee jeebees! 😊

    Reply

  18. kutukamus
    Nov 23, 2017 @ 19:01:22

    I clicked the ivy house, but it’s a 404 (page not found). Amazing, nonetheless 🙂

    Reply

  19. Amy
    Nov 27, 2017 @ 18:46:55

    Thanks for following. I clicked on over as the title samples lured me, and very much enjoyed your blog. Will be back. 🙂

    Reply

  20. penneyvanderbilt
    Nov 29, 2017 @ 15:52:48

    Reblogged this on Ancien Hippie.

    Reply

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