As Charles Dickens proved way back in the Victorian era, Christmas is a perfect time for a good ghost story, and here, at long last, is night three of our stay at the haunted cabin. Enjoy…
Tamara: Our third day began bright and early with a pan full of heaven — potatoes, bacon, and eggs — fried outside on the hibachi. Alistair made coffee and hot chocolate and we happily gorged ourselves then worked it off by taking a brisk (and safe) walk along the narrow winding road. We hiked about a mile up past the cabin and came across nothing but more woods and squirrels; no cabins, no cars, no people. We heard birdsong once we were out of immediate range of our cabin. It was slightly startling and very welcome.
It was a beautiful day, clear and bright, and all wrong for ghosts, making it – we decided – the perfect day to break out the Ouija. We planned to do this later that night after getting some work done.
Upon returning from our walk, we dutifully examined the interior of the cabin, checking for strange sensations and anything out of place. We found the front bedroom to be as uncomfortable and creepy as ever, and even colder than it had been the day before. The other bedroom hadn’t changed; it still felt like a normal room. The puzzle we’d worked on looked different to us both – one of the corners we thought we’d filled in wasn’t done – but neither of us was sure about that and decided to take a photo, but both phones were dead again, as were the camera batteries. The lantern batteries were, too, but the sunlight kept the room bright and cheery. We didn’t even bother to light the kerosene lantern.
We worked until early afternoon then headed to town for hot showers, followed by bacon cheeseburgers at the cafe, where we also let our phones properly recharge. After lunch, we bought fresh batteries, along with lots of junk food to get us through the rest of our stay.
We were feeling good, especially about the amount of work we’d gotten done that morning and began talking about staying on a couple more nights so we could continue to work. (This was something we knew we could do from the outset – we simply hadn’t expected to want to. Now, I called Ellie and let her know we wouldn’t be dropping off the keys quite yet. I also reported that while things were interesting at the cabin, we still had no proof, for or against, a real haunting.
It was late afternoon when we returned to the cabin. The living room waltzed with shadows now, but we quickly cleared that by lighting a fire and a couple of lanterns before going back to work. Oh, were we on a roll! We worked out a piece of the novel, plotted out yet more of a book idea we came up with last year, and even worked on a couple of other future projects. We were all over the place. All we could figure was that the salt we’d been using to keep us from getting sleepy was doing its job. We were totally on fire, wide awake and hyperfocusing on one project then another.
We worked for about four hours, but it seemed like no more than an hour had passed. I love sessions like that!
Finally, it was time to relax and we decided to risk watching a movie on my computer, somehow reasoning that Macs are less likely to get messed up than PCs. I’d brought along a couple of DVDs and I checked the computer before getting it out of the car – it held a full charge.
It was well after dark now and chilly, so we built the fire up to full-tilt-roaring, made hot cocoa with marshmallows, then set the Mac on the coffee table and got comfortable on the couch, sharing a blanket we’d brought in from the car. I’d brought Airplane! because it wasn’t wise to watch a haunted house movie in that cabin. We were still trying to make an honest assessment and putting The Changeling or The Shining on just wouldn’t have helped that goal.
We watched for maybe five minutes before the computer went down. The full charge, which would normally last two hours, had drained completely. I put the Mac back in its case and took it back out to the car and replaced it in the trunk. No way was I taking chances with my means of livelihood!
As I locked the hatch, the cabin door opened and Alistair came trotting out, his eyes practically glowing in the dark.
Alistair: Even though I hadn’t said anything, I’d been feeling uneasy for a good part of the day, so when the charge on the computer got sucked down almost instantly, it only confirmed our suspicions that the place was an energy drain. And it didn’t discriminate. Computers, cameras, phones, electronic cigarette devices – and even Tamara and I before we protected ourselves with salt – were entirely exhausted in a matter of minutes in that cabin. I had been thinking about that very thing – the strange drainage of all things battery-operated – when an abrupt noise from down the hall set me on my feet. It was a smooth, somewhat high-pitched two-syllable intonation that under other circumstances might well have been soothing and melodious, and as soon as I heard it, I knew what it was. It was the same sound I’d heard the night before as I was falling asleep, something I’d forgotten about until now.
It was the old cuckoo clock in the bedroom.
I don’t know if it was the sudden break of silence, frayed nerves, or the unlikelihood of an unwound, decades-old clock springing to sudden life… but before that bird was done saying, “cuckoo,” I was out the door.
Tamara was by her car. As I neared, I could see her eyes registering my distress. When I told her what was wrong, she looked confused a moment and asked me if I was sure. I told her I was certain and that I’d also heard it the night before. I collected myself, not wanting to obliterate my chances of ever being invited on another haunt with her, and we headed inside to check it out.
The clock, of course, was completely dead, coated in undisturbed dust. As we looked it over, tapped and jiggled it a little, it remained lifeless, as if to deliberately discredit me. Luckily, I could tell Tamara knew I wasn’t making it up. However, I no longer wished to participate in the séance we’d planned for that night.
Tamara: I told Alistair about residual hauntings and that this was likely what we had just experienced. In the book Haunted, I explain residuals as something similar to opening a decade-sealed trunk in the attic. Suddenly, you find yourself in a cloud of; it s as if she’s standing right there right behind you. A residual is similar in feel, but there’s no perfume bottle to explain it. These kinds of hauntings are common and minor; they are little more than memories in motion. They are not, by any stretch of the imagination, spirits.
Alistair was still reluctant, however, to do the séance we’d planned. I believe that things such as Ouija boards and Tarot cards are rarely more than tools that help you tap into your own subconscious, and I told this all to Alistair. After hearing me out, he was feeling a little better about our upcoming séance, so after a quick dinner, we were ready to do it.
I’ve been around Ouijas all my life but I’ve never had the patience required to get very far with them. To me, they are more of a party game than anything. Alistair, however, had played with one in his teenage years and was not as comfortable with the idea as I was. But, being a good sport, he got the board out and dimmed our lanterns. We placed out fingers on the planchette, and asked if anyone was present.
Alistair: We waited. And waited. Nothing happened… until… Tamara said, “This is Zorro, would you like to see my sword?” in what was easily the worst Mexican accent I’d ever heard – although I cannot deny she can certainly roll her Rs. We busted up laughing, then continued trying to make contact – with someone besides Zorro. Nothing happened. After several more minutes, we removed our hands and started talking about other things.
Then something changed. It wasn’t the topic – we were discussing our book – but suddenly an eerie feeling saturated the room; the air felt thick and heavy. I looked at Tamara to see if she’d noticed, and as soon as our eyes met, I knew she had. The sickest part about it was that she, unlike me, appeared to enjoy it. Her eyes widened, and her lips spread in a giddy grin.
Tamara: The air pressure change is usually a sign that an anomaly is about to occur. This barometric shift is one of the few things I’ve experienced that I cannot readily explain.
Alistair: We put our hands back on the planchette and asked if anyone was present.
Tamara: Nothing happened.
Alistair: Until we gave up and moved our hands away from the board.
Tamara: It was then that the planchette finally moved. Look Ma, no hands!
Alistair: I did not share Tamara’s light-hearted attitude. Just as we took our hands away from the board, the planchette slid several inches, and although it never reached what I assume was its destination, I was, and still am, fully convinced that it was trying to make its way to the word YES on the upper corner of the board.
Tamara: I have to admit, it definitely was not pushed, by either of us.
Alistair: Then, it happened. We heard the cuckoo from the bedroom. Both of us. It was then that Tamara issued forth a loud and sailor-worthy stream of expletives, causing me jump to my feet with a few profanities of my own.
Tamara: Once we gathered our bearings, we headed down the hall to take a look at the clock. Nothing was moving. We both got a case of the nervous giggles, and were soon catapulted back in time to our ten-year-old selves.
Alistair: We ran from the cabin, giggling more than ever. Once outside, the cold air restored our senses a little but we both admitted we didn’t want to go back in the cabin just yet. It felt much safer outside. Unfortunately, we had to reenter because we needed the blanket and car keys. Tamara opened the door and held it wide while I darted into the living room, snagged our blanket off the couch and the keys from the table. Tamara and I were locked in the safety of the Subaru in record time.
Tamara: When you’re dealing with this stuff, there’s a fine line between acting like an adult and turning back into the child who loves scaring him or herself with ghost stories as you sneak a peek in a window of the allegedly haunted house on the corner. Alistair and I crossed that line that night, and although we may have missed out on some strong evidence of a haunting, we enjoyed being the children we once were, and we spent the rest of the night sharing a blanket in the car, and talking about the creepy things we’d just experienced as well as the ones from our pasts.
Alistair: It was a wonderful night.
Next time: The Fourth Day… Something Wicked this Way Comes