Fall is the perfect time for a ghost story and a campfire. Jim Harold's new book has just arrived and to kick things off we thought we'd share some ghost stories that didn't make the book but were part of a contest on his show Paranormal Podcast. Look for new stories every week leading into October! Also look for the winning story which is part of the finished book.
He Just Vanished submitted by KATHERYNE
It was Friday night, and my initial plan was to go the movies with friends. I really wish I had! All of us met that night at my house—three couples, all teenagers. My boyfriend and I decided to get a pizza and play pool and arcade games instead of going to the movies. The other two couples continued on to the movie, leaving one of their cars behind and agreeing that we’d meet back at my house later.
The pizza parlor was busy that night, with children running around, lots of noisy conversations, and gaming sounds filled the air. It was my turn to take a shot at the game of pool we were playing, and that’s when I sensed something, that feeling you get when someone’s watching you. Looking out at the crowd, I searched for what had suddenly made me feel so uncomfortable, and my eyes met his.
I remember his eyes were very black, and he had a dark, penetrating stare that was focused intensely on me. What is wrong with his hair? I thought to myself. Unruly, wild, choppy, and odd in appearance. I looked away, saying to myself, Just a weird guy; ignore him. Which is what I did.
Bob, my boyfriend, and I left the pizza parlor. He had to work the next day so he dropped me off and went home. My friends were still at the movies, my father out on a date, and I was alone. At the time I was a smoker, and my father wouldn’t have approved if he had known. Naturally I didn’t want the house to smell like cigarettes, and I knew I could sit in my friend’s car to smoke because she never locked it.
I wasn’t sitting there for very long when I suddenly noticed a shift in light in my peripheral vision, where the big picture window of the kitchen was. I glanced over, and standing there was the man from the pizza parlor, in my house. He had followed us home! I was terrified. I locked the car door, but with no keys to start it and the horn not working, I was trapped!
I thought, What can I do? If I try to run he’ll catch me, and the neighbors live too far away to hear me scream. My mind raced from thought to thought. What if I’d stayed in the house? This crazy monster wants to hurt me, please someone come home! It’s been 20 minutes, 40 minutes—almost an hour has gone by! My body was feeling heavy with fear, paralyzed. Someone, help me!
I looked up and saw another movement in front of the car: he’s moved closer now; he’s kneeling, watching me, and looking into the front windshield. Am I going to die?
Suddenly I saw my father’s headlights shine into the car I was sitting in, and I watched the man’s image fade away, just vanish in front of me. It dawned on me that I had just seen a ghost.
The Window submitted by MMVI
In my family there is something that happens that no one talks about. As my father has gotten older and his health has started to fail, you can see it in his eyes. You can see the fear. It’s not the normal fear we all have of death; it’s much deeper. It’s knowing that what already happened once is about to happen again.
It was the early years of the 1960s and I was 4 years old. I remember it was October and warm. It was Saturday, laundry day, and since our old wringer washer no longer worked my mother had taken all the girls to the Laundromat. The day had started late, so instead of folding all the clothes there, we packed it all up in plastic bags and pillow cases and brought it home to fold so mom could start dinner. I was old enough now to learn how to fold clothes and I was to help my mom as my older two sisters helped out in the kitchen. Of course back then all this was women’s work, so my father and brothers sat in the small living room watching television as work went on around them.
The room was mere feet away from where all the laundry was in my parent’s room (along with me). The rooms were separated by a large maroon curtain hanging on a wooden dowel. The house was once a one-bedroom home but with eight people, my parents became inventive with the living space. At one time their room became the living room, with an archway separating it from the dining room. In such a small space someone was always very close by, but on this night it would seem like miles.
My mother was constantly on the move that night—folding clothes, correcting the ones I did wrong and showing me how again, grabbing an armful to be put away in drawers, into the kitchen to check on the food and my sisters, back to the bedroom for more clothes, and around again. The curtain separating the rooms, once carefully tied back, had come loose, so the view into the living room was cut in half. A small lamp on a nightstand next to the bed was turned on. There were two windows in the bedroom, both covered with the same maroon curtains as the archway. Behind the headboard of my parents’ bed was a great picture window that looked out to our street. Off to the west side of the room there was a smaller window facing the side of the neighbor’s house; this window latched in the middle to lock. Both windows were closed against the night.
As time passed it seemed to me the clothes would never end and I would be doomed to spend to spend the remainder of the night there with mounds of clothes and my mother’s voice saying “No, not that way, Peggy. Like this,” as she undid what I had done for me to do over. I was resigned, however, and put my head down and concentrated as much as any 4 year old could and kept on.
I was alone in the room when I heard the first taps on the window, almost next to me outside on the great window at the head of the bed. The first ones were light and so I ignored them. The next taps were a little harder and seemed to have intent behind them. This made me stop with shirt in hand to look at the curtain that covered the window. My mother came in just then and put me instantly at ease and so I went back to the shirt.
Tap, tap, tap, again harder with more intent. I stopped dead and looked at my mother who seemed to have also paused a moment longer than usual over a pile of clothes she was picking up to bring to my brothers dresser.
“Momma, do you hear that?” I said in a half whisper. I had a feeling whoever it was outside was listening.
“What do you mean? Hear what?” She picked up the armload of clothes and gave me a blank look.
As if on cue the tapping came again but this time traveled the length of the window and then back to the spot it started. I jumped, scared. As I looked at her I could feel tears in my eyes.
“Peggy, stop.” Her tone was exasperated “It’s nothing but the wind.”
Again, as if on cue, the tapping resumed on the window and traveled across it but instead of coming back in my direction again it continued on to the outside of the house, around the corner, and stopped.
I know she heard it; I could see it in her eyes but her face was blank. "See?” she said with vindication after it stopped. “It’s only the wind. Now get to work and finish those shirts—dinner is almost ready.” Then she walked out of the room with clothes in her arms I knew I couldn’t just follow her out and leave the room.
Scared or not, I had to do what I was told.
We had to grow up quickly in my family. So I did the next best thing. I moved as far away from that window as possible while staying within reach of the clothes, which in this case I thought would be the end of the bed. I was wrong.
When the tapping resumed it was more of a pounding, this time no longer on the glass but on the frame around it and the house itself. No longer was it at the big window, either, but at the side window—it had moved, just as I had.
When it started I thought my heart stopped—I couldn’t breathe, the room itself seemed to change around me, I couldn’t move. It wanted my attention and now it had it wholeheartedly. I watched as the curtain on the window jumped and rippled with each blow to the frame and house. I looked over to the curtain opening to the living room, and it was like looking through a telescope the wrong way: I could see my father on the couch and two of my brothers sitting next to him, the light of the television illuminating their faces as they laughed at the show they were watching, their voices seemingly far off.
I turned back to the window; the curtain was now jumping high enough away from the window with each impact that I could catch it in my hand if I wanted. As soon as my mind let in that thought, my hand began to rise up. Despite the fact that I wanted to go now, my hand caught the curtain by its edge and jerked it back to reveal the window behind it. Then I saw it and it saw me.
Its eyes were glowing red, its skin pale greenish-gray and rough, with bit of what seemed to be coarse hair on the top and sides of its head, pointed ears sticking out just a little, just enough to see, and the features of its face long and flat. A hand rose up and pressed against the glass, three long fingers and what seemed to be a thumb with claws at the end of each. The glass creaked against the weight. It looked up at the lock on the window back at me, pointed at it, with the same hand pointed a finger at me then turned the hand around and did the “come here” sign with its forefinger as it smiled.
That smile did me in: it went from ear to ear in a lipless grin, showing each and every one of its pointed, razor-sharp teeth. That smile forced all the air I had been holding in, out in one great expulsion, air that had to be replaced immediately as the first found no voice to carry the terror that my eyes were seeing. The same moment my breath finally found the voice it was looking for, my legs found the movement they needed to move away, far away, as fast as they could go, my hand neglected as it still held tight the curtain as it was pulled from the window in my flight.
The last thing I remember was running into something (now I know it was someone) and everything going dark. I don’t remember anything for a long time afterward. A space in a life of someone who remembers so much is utterly blank, gone.
Much later I heard a story from my aunts on my father’s side who came for a visit. The story was about my one of my great grandfathers, a priest, and about a creature that is still tied to the family. Apparently everyone in the family is destined to see it twice, once when they are very young, and again right before death. This creature is the reason for the look in my father’s eyes and the reason my curtains are always drawn tightly against the night. We don’t talk about it.