David gazed straight into the camera and smoothed his face into a somber expression. This reminded me of a bad Lester Holt impression, and I had to suppress a giggle from bubbling up.
“Are we recording, Dee?” he asked, fussing over his stiff shirt-collar.
I gave him a thumbs up and continued peering at him through the screen of the camera. He cleared his throat.
“Here I am, outside of the house that Sarah Tanner owns, right off Highway 54 here in George, Kentucky. Sarah purchased this place a couple months ago from the adult son of the deceased previous owner. The man confided in her that he wished to sell it because it is haunted. Wait, Dee-that last line sounded stupid, didn’t it?”
I hit stop on the camera.
“Kind of, I guess. You just sounded…a little stiff. Mostly towards the end.”
He frowned and tossed a look over his shoulder, at the house that stood behind him.
“Well, let’s do a take two, so we can wrap this up and get inside. It’s almost dark. You know what that means, right?”
I scratched my head, but didn’t bother to answer.
“The ghosts’ll be out soon. Man, I’m so fucking ready for this! I hope we can catch some creepy shit on video, or at least an EVP or two. If we don’t, I’m probably gonna add some fake shit, you know, just to get the internet’s attention.”
I didn’t like the sound of that. We were just doing this for fun, the investigation of an allegedly haunted house, but I still felt we should maintain a sense of integrity. Instead of telling him that, I figured I’d wait until later to argue my point.
The sun was sinking lower behind the white saltbox home, so I gestured with my free hand to signal to him that we’d better get on with it. He nodded enthusiastically and rolled his head to loosen his neck muscles.
“We’re rolling,” I said, after hitting play.
“The adult son of the previous owner informed Sarah that he wished to sell due to some unexplained phenomena that took place here after his mother’s death. Sarah said he’d heard footsteps in the empty house once, and, on another occasion, he’d discovered his grocery list had been violently scribbled on, even though, once again, he was alone in the house. Good?”
He raised his eyebrows.
“Uh, yeah. Still rolling.”
“We-my camera person and I-met Sarah through her great niece, a friend of ours, who told us about the house. Sarah had no creepy stories to tell us, but was very gracious, allowing us to spend the night here. Tonight, we attempt to communicate with the dead. You get that?”
I nodded and hit stop. Personally, I thought he was over-acting, lowering his voice a notch or two and releasing it in waves of dramatic gusto. It was chilly, though, and I wanted to go in. That was where the excitement waited, anyway-inside. Before we unlocked the front door and shuffled in, David insisted on watching the playback of his performance. I tapped a foot impatiently as I took a drag from my cigarette. For a moment, I feared he’d want to do everything over, but after remarking on how good he looked on camera, he shrugged and said it would do.
He tugged the key-ring out of his khaki pocket and slid the key into the lock. He pushed the door open in the dying light of day, and we made our way inside.
“Did you record my entrance?” He asked.
“Yup,” I answered, keeping my eyes focused on the screen of the camera.
We dumped our bags onto the dining room table. Tucked into my bag were flashlights, extra batteries, a Ouija board (in case we decided to get creative with it), the camera case, and the compact digital recorder. David’s bag carried bottles of water, chips, and snack cakes, which he annoyingly referred to as “ghost-hunting fuel.”
As we worked our way through the tidy house, I noticed a couple things. The first was that the basement door was in the kitchen. It had a deadbolt on it so that you could lock it from the kitchen-side. The second thing was that it was discernibly cooler in certain areas of the house.
In the living room, a shiver ran through me.
“It’s cold in here,” I said.
“Yeah, it is-yeah, yeah, yeah, please tell me you said that with the camera on?”
“Good, that’s a nice little detail.”
“But you agree? It’s colder in here than in the kitchen? Like, I can tell a difference.”
David stopped and raised his arms out before staring directly into the camera.
“Yes, I am detecting a definite temperature drop, a possible sign of the otherworldly.”
I shook my head and followed him up the stairs, the camera trained on the seat of his pants as we climbed. After working our way through each room, we went back down and descended into the basement. On the far side of the big, musty-smelling room was a door that opened up to steps. The steps led into the backyard that was boxed in with trees instead of a fence. Having got an idea of the layout of the place, as well as shots of David acting like the Ghost Adventures guy in every negative sense of that comparison, we returned to our home base, the dining room.
“OK, here’s the plan: I want all the lights off during filming-we’ll carry our flashlights, and you have the light on your camera. We’ll start from the top and work our way down, ending in the basement. Did you bring that Ouija board?” David asked.
“Yeah, I did.”
“Great. After we’ve run through the place, maybe we can play around with it for a bit, get some footage of that, and call it a night. You ready?”
It was almost fully dark outside when we started, standing upstairs in Sarah’s room, me with a flashlight stuffed in a pocket and the camera in hand. The light of the camera was bright and cast powerful white light onto a good portion of the room. What the camera was incapable of illuminating, David’s flashlight covered.
“I’m here in Sarah’s bedroom, with a digital voice recorder. Let’s talk with some ghosts-wait, wait. You forgot to turn the dining room light off, Dee.”
I turned toward the bedroom door and saw that he was right. There was yellow light coming from downstairs, and I couldn’t recall flipping the switch off before following David up.
“My bad. It won’t really hurt anything, though. We can just shut the door.”
“Yeah, do that,” he instructed, smirking.
With the bedroom door closed, he resumed his talk of EVPs.
“Bear in mind that it’ll probably be necessary for me to ‘clean up’ the audio before we’re able to make out any voices. I’m going to start with some simple, cliché questions, giving a pause between each to allow time for an answer.” He closed his eyes as he held the digital recorder out in an open palm. “Who are you?”
“Did you used to live here?”
“Are you happy that Sarah lives here now?”
Before the pause had expired, there was the sound of something slapping against skin as the digital recorder was flung across the room. David hadn’t moved a muscle when the device went sailing through the air and continued to stand very still afterward, until a couple stunned seconds had lapsed. His eyes bulged as he brought his now empty hand closer to him. I’d been holding my breath without realizing it until he broke out into a grin and met my eyes for confirmation.
“Please fucking tell me you got that.”
“Jesus Christ…I did,” I answered, releasing my breath.
In his elation, he jumped up and down like a prepubescent girl at a One Direction concert.
“Shit, yeah!” he exclaimed, pumping a fist into the air.
“Let’s, uh, go down to the living room, or something. It’s really cold in here, all of the sudden-do you feel it?”
“Nah, I’m too hyped up to feel cold right now!”
“Still-David-David. I’m really creeped out. Please, let’s go back downstairs.”
“OK, OK, don’t piss your pants. I just gotta find the recorder, then we’ll go back down.”
He scooped up the digital recorder on the far side of the bed, then we filed out of the room. At the bottom step, I froze. The dining room was covered in darkness, in spite of me neglecting to turn the light off before departing for Sarah’s room.
“Relax, Dee. The bulb probably blew. It doesn’t matter, though-I wanted the whole house to be dark, anyway.”
I couldn’t stop goosebumps from springing up on my arms, even with this logical explanation.
“Let’s, uh, go ahead and comment on it for our viewers, though…We’re back in the dining room, where the light is now off. Is it the work of an angry spirit? Or just a blown bulb?”
When he’d finished talking, I tried the light switch to no avail. Then I placed my flashlight on the table with its circle of light pointed at my bag.
“David, maybe we should call it a night? I mean, I’m really into this, but…well, I hadn’t expected anything to actually happen. I’m kinda freaked out,” I said from behind the camera.
He scoffed and folded his arms across his chest.
“Are you serious? I knew I should’ve asked Pedro to do this-I just never thought in a million years that you’d try to chicken out on me.”
I dropped the camera to my side and snatched some fresh batteries off the top of my bag.
“Don’t be like that. You have to admit, that was really creepy, what happened upstairs,” I continued as I changed out the dying batteries with the new, before booting the camera back on.
“Uh, yeah, it was-but that’s exactly what we wanted, right?”
I didn’t answer.
“Yes,” I admitted.
“OK. So let’s stop being babies and go down to the basement. Basements are always creepy.”
“Uh, hold on a sec-where’s the Ouija board?” I hadn’t been looking for it, but noticed as I dropped the dead batteries inside the bag that it wasn’t there.
David’s face lit up.
“Are you sure it’s not there?”
“Positive,” I said.
“Oh, shit. I swear, I didn’t touch it.”
“That’s…weird,” I mumbled.
“Maybe it’ll turn up,” he whispered as he hunched his shoulders and grinned mischievously.
“Let’s just go to the basement,” I muttered.
In the kitchen, David slid the lock out of place and opened the basement door. He scanned the walls at the top of the steps with his flashlight and tested the light switch there. Light flooded the basement below before he flipped it off again.
“I know it was working earlier, but I wanted to make sure, given the dining room light situation,” he explained to the camera.
I closed the door behind us before we descended into the basement. I was pretty spooked, especially when I noticed how much colder it was down there.
“Don’t even say it, Dee-I know, it’s colder here. It’s probably just not as insulated as the upstairs,” David said as he cracked the joints in his fingers.
He removed the digital recorder from his pocket and held it out, this time taking care to grip it tightly.
“Ready?” he asked.
“Alright, after the events that took place upstairs, I’m taking care to hold onto the digital recorder a bit tighter. Is anyone here?”
“Why did you knock the recorder out of my hand?”
“Are you angr-”
“Shh, shut up,” I snapped.
From upstairs, I thought I heard something.
“What now?” David asked.
“Just shut up a second,” I commanded.
Now I was sure of it-I could hear footsteps. Someone was walking around upstairs. David’s smugness melted into fear. I turned the camera towards the top of the stairs. The slow-moving footsteps sounded as if they were en route to the kitchen-where the basement door stood closed.
“Did you lock the front door?” David asked in hushed tones.
“Yes,” I hissed.
Now the footsteps approached the basement door. As quiet as it was, we could clearly make out the sound of the deadbolt sliding into the locked position. Panic wrung my guts as my heart rate picked up. I don’t know why I decided to-maybe I had to prove to myself that this was actually happening-but I walked forward and began climbing up the stairs.
“Dee-what the hell are you doing?” David whispered.
“I-I have to check,” was all I could manage through the lump of dread that had filled my throat.
At the top, I pressed an ear to the door, the camera hanging limply in a hand by my side. I waited. A couple seconds later, I sucked in a deep breath, grabbed hold of the doorknob, and turned it, pushing on the door simultaneously.
It was locked. Adrenaline rushed through my body; my breath quickened.
“Is it locked?” David asked from below.
I ignored him and kept my ear against the door.
Suddenly, someone-or something- pounded on the door, electrocuting my body with sizzling-hot fear. Gasping, I almost tumbled down the steps, but managed to correct my balance at the crucial moment between standing and falling. From below, David emitted a whining sound before sprinting towards the door that opened up to the backyard. I bolted down the stairs so fast that my feet barely touched the steps. By the time I made it to the exit, David was already in the moonlit backyard. A stitch stabbed me in the side as I followed David’s running figure around the house, to the driveway.
He stopped at his car, panting as he bent to lean on his thighs for support. Right as I approached, he straightened up and held his flashlight over the front of the car.
The missing Ouija board rested on the hood, unfolded. Carved into it was a single word: Hello.