Young boys make the mistake of chasing an errant football into he depths of a Georgia haunted house. Written by Kenneth Gary.


“I know that the old woman in that huge, crumbling, grey house is hiding a secret, a dead body, something. I just know it!”
– words of an anonymous woman in the neighborhood.

One cannot, with the unburdened mind of youth, gaze upon stars, or the imaginative clouds of the sky, without being set upon by waves of wonder…
– sentiments of an anonymous child, same neighborhood.

Once upon a time…

When I was a young boy we played any number of sports and games outside in all areas of our Georgia neighborhood. The entire area was our domain: With one unacknowledged exception.

It was not something that we talked about openly, unless it was Halloween, but, there was one very large, decayed, grey house at the end of our ‘territory’ that, collectively, we instinctively avoided.

We had in the past, experienced the terror of attempting to retrieve an errant baseball from the front yard. There was no particular event associated with this perception: just a feeling. This alone was enough to make us realize that the air within that yard was forbidding. In fact, there are a number of prize balls of all sorts in that yard that were simply never recovered. It could even be the ninth inning, sun setting, mothers calling; but whenever the ball fell into that yard, it was the unspoken termination of whatever series was underway. Silently, no boasting, no arguments; the game just dissolved.

It was the kind of house that you just did not turn and walk away from; you tended to look over your shoulder for an extended portion of your departure. There was a subterranean concern with having ‘disturbed’ whatever lay within…there was a ‘please do not follow me home’ thought in the mind of anyone who in any way encroached.

That year, the hometown team made it to the Super Bowl. In those days, we were so adept at sneaking into any stadium that our only concern was getting enough cash for hot dogs and pop. This we accomplished also. With the game being local, we basically had fortune not merely smile upon us but bursting with a cornucopia of joy.

When our team won, underneath the bleachers, and everywhere else, people celebrated without restraint. One particularly exuberant (drunk) man pulled me aside and pushed a real NFL labeled football into my stomach, just like a hand off. “Here’s a souvenir, kid” he mumbled.

Well, to me at that age, I thought it was the game ball!. I ran before he could change his clouded mind. Showing my friends, they immediately wanted to go out to our street, and play a game with this wonderful ball that found its way into our lives.

With the seemingly limitless energy of youth, when legs just wanted to run of their own accord, we played and played up and down the avenue that night. The ball seemed to bring some magic to the game because there were more extraordinary plays performed than ever before. Finally, there was one long sideline pass that ended up too close to the fence, and even though I tipped it with my left hand, it did not bounce into receiving range, and it went over (it was ‘sucked’ over) the fence.

It went over the fence into the yard of the big grey house.

Typically, we would all simply subdue our impulses and quietly go home for the evening. But this was a special ball; and the Super Bowl had filled us with emotions that made us feel it was the game of our lives. This ball had to be retrieved.

I immediately drafted Bruce and Ronnie as my co-agents in what I had already determined to be a rescue mission. We lost a lot of balls before; we are not losing this one. Neither of them objected, as they were both intoxicated by the day, the Super Bowl and the ball: we approached the fence to figure a plan of retrieval. Behind us, out of view, everyone else slowly backed up, with that same mesmerized expression, and finally simply turned away and went home.

What came to mind with the force of thunder was the recollection that only two people had ever entered this yard before. One, a high school football star, who instantly broke his leg after climbing the fence, his arm upon breaking his fall. The other incident involved a very popular boy who must have incurred an even more horrific fate as no one would even tell us what had taken place. We were ‘too young’. All we could gather was that the grief-stricken, morose expressions on the faces of his friends that day, spelled certain doom. We never saw him again.

No matter. The ball is outside in the yard. It cannot have gone too close to the house. Besides conquering the prodigious undergrowth, what really, in this world of sunshine and blue sky, could stop us?

We were terrified.

Abandoned plantation house, Monticello, Georgia

The fence was chest high, for all three of us. But the vines and bushes that were never cut, caused one to forcibly dig through them in order to get a clear view of the yard even on top of the old wooden fence. And these vines and other undergrowth were tenacious; at points it seemed they grew straight through uncracked areas in the wood itself.

Assessing the landscape we decided to try to first make visual contact with the ball. Then we could decide a plan of action that would most likely secure our lives in this mission and return us safely to this side of the fence. We could not see the ball. However, we remained undaunted.

Unnoticed, we transformed into a band of predators that surveyed the African savannah. With unspoken stealth, we found an area that permitted the easiest access thru the brush , vines, and over the fence.

There was a movement in one of the upstairs windows…not now; did it notice me? don’t look! Let us just get the ball; that’s all. In that strange way that people will expect that if they do not look directly at the car as they cross in front of, it will, by some unwritten law, not hit them. Just don’t look!

We had no real idea how large this cul-de-sac property really was. The house, easily observed from a distance down the street, was in reality thirty yards from the fence, and much taller, wider and far more decrepit than anyone ever suspected. And the grey color was not so much a color as it was the complete absence of any color at all. It was the color left when absolutely all other color is washed away. And it was unsettling. The house just looked dead.

Ronnie had received several cuts in the effort. One, on the back of his right hand, which probably deserved some attention, but before we knew it Ronnie licked it several times, applying saliva and clearing the blood. He looked up at us and whispered “ It’s okay”.

Crouching to a height just above the never tended sea of weeds covering the yard; we spread out to better locate our target in minimum time. We were far enough apart to expand the swath of the search, and close enough to not leave unexplored areas in between us.

Spread out, as we were, me in the middle, Bruce on my far left and Ronnie on my far right, we hesitantly began to search through, what seemed to be all the wheat in Kansas, for the ball.

Unbelievably, I heard Ronnie talking. The plan was to be utterly quiet once inside, which we now were, in order to not attract attention. Besides, who could he be talking too??!!

I stood up straight to see what could be going on over there just in time to see Ronnie running towards the house, halfway there he began to wave a greeting as though he saw someone he knew in the house. When he bounded upon the porch, clearly with glee, the front door opened allowing entrance. Without pause, Ronnie ran right into the house and the door closed sounding the finality of a prison gate: a life lost. The house had swallowed him.

I looked to the left, and Bruce too had observed this astounding behavior, and was clearly as astonished as I was. What could possibly possess someone, knowing what we all know about this place, to behave in this manner?

My bones told me there was no chance of going into that house. I looked at Bruce, blankly; implying that the decision was his and all the while hoping that he too would decline to follow Ronnie.

His bones told him the opposite. We could not leave without Ronnie.


Reluctantly, we approached each other at full height; the secret shroud of our arrival had evaporated. We were already announced, by Ronnie’s unbelievable behavior. It never occurred to us that we were in fact being invited in: that is why the mesmerizing effect that had sent everyone else home, did not impact us. Without speaking, we agreed to rescue our friend. Shoulder to shoulder, we turned to look at the Grey House where we would face whatever fate awaits.

But wait! Not the front door. Let’s take a walk around the house, there is probably some broken screen door to the kitchen, or rotted out gateway to the basement, or something. Here is where our skills at sneaking into all those football stadiums and carnivals would come in handy; we will find a way in; but it will be our way in: not the front door.

The very back of the house did have what used to be a screen-enclosed porch off the kitchen. Carefully, cause we could ill afford to have ourselves injured by rotten porch timber, we approached the kitchen door. The screen on the door had completely rotted away also. All I had to do was push my hand through the remaining screen, which instantly turned to dust, and unhook the simple lock.

We were in the kitchen.

To our utter amazement, the kitchen had towering cabinets scaling two of the walls. There was a table in the middle that was tall enough for us to walk under without bending our heads at all.

On the table there were apples the size of basketballs. Closer inspection, however, revealed that they were actually grapes. It finally dawned on us that whoever inhabited this place had to in fact be of monstrous proportions. With considerable effort, we returned our attention to the urgent task of finding Ronnie and getting out.

Since he came in the front door, let’s start there.

Silently, we found our way towards the front of the house. We passed what appeared to be a reading room, equipped just like the kitchen, with a table taller than us, and bookcases populated with strangely labeled, old, hard covered texts, that would have been too large for us to even retrieve from the shelves. We continued towards what had to be the front of the house where Ronnie, stupid Ronnie, just had to come inside!

Impossibly, the inside of this ‘house’ was of colossal proportions totally belied by the outward appearance.

The inside was just like the outside; never attended to. We were able to see Ronnie’s footprints as they came in the front door in the thick dust that covered the floor. They went to the (his) left upon entering, the opposite direction from which we had just come.

As we proceeded in this direction, to the right was a lofty, curved staircase, with enormity more than human, that went up to a second floor which surrounded the entire house it seemed with a walkway with many doors and several halls that wound off into utter and hollow darkness. Cautiously, we followed the footprints; thankful they did not lead upstairs. We need to find him fast before fear overtakes us and changes our minds completely.

Very faintly, I could hear a strangely familiar muffled sound coming from the direction we were going. We moved over to the wall, so that we could inch our way forward and defeat the chances of being discovered by…anything that may be in this place.

Fortunately, very shortly the familiar sounds were recognized as those made by a considerably large number of people dining together.

We squeezed ourselves along the wall until we came upon a large room before us, where, there was in fact a large table with what appeared to be about 20 people sitting around it eating.

Crouching behind a small table that was holding a dim lamp, we could make out the entire group across the hallway without being noticed. It took a few moments, but; I did recognize Billy Mitchell sitting at the table.

Billy was a classmate of mine, two years earlier. More than a classmate, we were actually quite good friends. Billy and his family had moved to Detroit; yet, those were his parents on either side of him, eating in relative silence.

There was also Trudy Jones. I would never forget her because, even though she was several years older, I had a boyhood crush on her for as long as I could remember. But, she was no longer older than me. In fact, she was exactly the same age as the last summer before her, and her slow running brother, were at the time that they left this town.

There were several other people recognizable at the table. But in every case, it was someone, or some family, who had ‘moved away’, or otherwise relocated, to some other distant place. But they were in fact all right here! They had not gone anywhere! And they looked exactly as they had when they ‘left’. Trudy was no longer older than me. Not this Trudy.

Then we saw Billy’s dog Apache. The dog had died a year before Billy and his family moved to Detroit. It was sitting by Billy’s leg at the table. A position I clearly recall that his parents would not allow at dinner time because I often visited them in those days.

We made no noise at all. Suddenly, as if by clairvoyance; the dog immediately swung his head around to look directly at us; he looked as though my very recognition of him had made a suspicious sound that he could hear. His ears twitched, and he instantly sprang to his feet, and began to snarl like Cerberus, guarding the gates of Hades. This was effectively an alarm to everyone at the table who also immediately ceased all activity and, without searching, turned their laser like attention upon us.

I could feel the heat from their glare; eyes rimmed with deep bloody red. Inhuman forked tongues darted out of several mouths in serpent like fashion. They rose from the table in unison; never taking their eyes off us…

Without a word, we turned and ran. We ran back across the large foyer that comprised the entryway. Looking over my shoulder to see the ‘missing people’ storming out of the dining room after us, only, they were running on all fours; backs arching like true quadrupeds in pursuit. Now their tongues wagged out of their open mouths like wolves. And they howled like a pack of wild animals.

Their form of locomotion, along with the changes in their bodies, made it clear they were soon going to overtake us. In utter desperation we decided to run, jump, up the staircase; because we all know, canines are not so graceful on stairs as they are on open ground.

To our surprise, they did not even pursue us up the stairs. They came to a screeching halt, some tumbling in the dust under their own momentum. Reverting to human, upright posture, they walked back and forth at the bottom of the stairs staring with those empty red rimmed eyes, long tongues rolling out of their mouths like a dog on a hot day. Some of them had long snake-like tails trailing behind them.

We stumbled up the stairs backwards. Looking at them, in case they changed their minds…

We reached the second story of the house. From here, looking upwards, the very top of the building hosted a huge glass dome. Through it I could see the most magnificent display of brilliant stars against a palpably thick, blue-black sky. I knew I was somehow closer to the entire universe than I had ever been before: This was not a scene one could commonly see from the surface of the earth. Besides, it was full daylight still when we entered the house.

I looked back down the stairs and they were all gone: Nowhere to be seen. Since Ronnie was not among them, we decided to see if he was upstairs also. Maybe he was fortunate enough to have escaped them in the same way we just did. Either way, without discussion: getting out of here is already far more important than finding Ronnie (stupid Ronnie).

With all the noise echoing throughout the mansion from the chase just escaped, there is no need to try to be quiet. Anything that can hear already knows we are here by now.

There was a huge, ominous door at the end of the hallway before us.

When the door opened, the wind of death floated out onto the balcony. Standing in the doorway was a very tall (far more than human height), large, muscular figure, of a man. He did not move, but his very presence exuded sheer gravity. This was an entity that encompassed more than mortals have ever witnessed before.

It was as if some two-story tall, granite statue in the main lobby of a bustling New York skyscraper had awakened: infuriated by the way that mankind had exploited his true immortal grandeur to adorn their meager buildings. This was the infernal rage before us now.

With the sound of thunder, heard on the inside; in the space of an instant, eons were revealed to us, as if flying through the galaxy. His intent was not instruction, or sharing; we could see these phenomena simply as a by-product of having been brought into his mind. His intent was examination of us.

One could feel that what he was doing with the missing people was consuming their future, extracting all the promise from their lives; their hopes and dreams; this is what he lived on. Simple manipulation, crushing several dreams, diminishing just a little celestial light, is how he victimized them: exactly as a spiders poison incapacitates the victim. It was a combination of this and the wind from his home world blowing in this place that transformed them into the creatures they were becoming; Man is never far from Monster – human aspiration is a feeble barrier.

I grabbed Bruce’s arm, to set him into motion as I turned to flee. The grab meant I was not going to wait – better come now! With my acceleration being so desperate, the ancient carpet beneath my feet rolled, fighting my intention to escape and catapulting my mind into complete terror. But I kept running. Bruce was energized into action by my grasp of his arm, and he too managed to turn and flee.

The creature in the doorway, actually filling the huge doorway, did not bother to pursue us. Pursuit never entered his vast mind. You do not chase mosquitoes; you kill them when they light on your arm again.

We ran back past the stairs. Looking down, those people were once again, all gathered around the bottom of the staircase. That path was blocked. We kept running until we came upon a very narrow stairway at the opposite side of the second level. At a glance, the stairs were more normal size, and this stairway did not even open up on the level where the ‘people’ were because we did not see it when we were downstairs. It actually was a servants egress. Apparently for human sized servants.

The stairway was interminably long as it had no exit on the first floor but continued uninterrupted into the cellar. This did not feel good at all. With what we have seen already, is not the cellar in this place bound to be far worse?

No stopping now. At this point we have to concentrate on saving ourselves.

Upon arriving at the bottom, one entire wall, of what appeared to be a recently excavated basement; the length of a football field was lined with embedded cages lit with mildly different colored lights from the top of each cell. Some were filled with a writhing mist that did not escape what appeared to be a set of horizontal and vertical bars encasing each cage. This was a menagerie that provided the many beasts within, a recreation of the environment from whatever world he was taken from.

Just then, a beast resembling a huge grizzly bear covered with alligator skin crashed into the bars of his cage with such ferocity that it physically shook many of the adjacent cages and elicited a huge cacophony of growls and shrieks from the nearby inhabitants.

My extreme terror was revealed with an audible shriek of my own.

Then, I felt myself gripped from behind on the shoulder. My entire life dissolved inside me as I turned around to find that it was Ronnie, standing behind us.

Ronnie was trying to explain to us what had occurred. He spoke slowly, actually he mumbled. I could see his cheek quickly jutting out, as though his tongue were poking it. It fell upon me in a flash; Ronnie too has the serpent tongue, and he was trying to hide it from us!

Just like the dog before him, ‘Ronnie’ knew instantly he had been discovered. He pounced upon me, with more power than he had ever possessed, forcing me backwards against one of the cages of the enclosed beasts. Behind me I could actually feel the delight (the hunger) of the creature within as it began to slither towards the bars of the cage and receive this human offering which was myself.

In spite of our history of my superior athletic prowess, I could not even begin to contest Ronnie’s strength at this point. Bruce too, attempted in vain to force Ronnie to relinquish his grasp upon me. With utter ease, he ignored Bruce, and he pinned me against the bars as the creature within increased his speedy approach, beckoning my certain doom.

It is said that man’s extremity is Gods opportunity. There was certainly only one single moment left for me; and looking deep within Ronnie’s eyes I was surprised to see recognition. In that instant, our entire shared childhood passed between us, both good and bad, and with the same complete power that he had pinned me against the bars, he now jerked me away. Behind me, I could hear the creature within crashing, disappointed, against the cage: Furious at the lost opportunity.

Speechless; and with an inhuman, mechanical like precision, Ronnie pointed towards a sizable nook within the cavernous walls of this dungeon. As we peered within the nook, we could see a stairway with light squeezing through the edges at the top. We turned to thank him only to see him turn and run with supernatural speed down the length of the walkway between the cages, uttering guttural, primordial grunts along the way, until something from within one of the cages reached out and pulled him in. His sounds ended abruptly, signaling certain extermination.

We chose to ascend the stairs.

There was the outside, old fashion cellar door at the top, which was not even locked. We opened it with ease to emerge into the same un-kept yard we had just left. As we shut the cellar doors we could still hear the cries from the unholy collection of wildlife below. The only difference being that it had to be about midnight judging from the position of the moon, the darkness, and the quiet that seemed to surround the neighborhood as far as we could tell.

Why did Ronnie not secure my death? Perhaps he was in the initial stages of being ‘absorbed’ by this place. More likely, the colossal creature within – who clearly spanned eons and galaxies – perhaps he had no concept of simple human friendship: A situation he had not incurred as yet. For whatever reason, at whatever stage of being ‘taken over’ he was at, the ‘Ronnie’ on the inside was being made from the Ronnie we knew. I do not think the being upstairs could just invent heroism, or even recognize it. Even if he could, he would not employ it to act for our sake. No, this incubus, this voodoo doll that was to become Ronnie, somehow was being made from the real thing – our friend.

Amazingly, when we finally got back outside, there was Ronnie, excited, asking us why we just suddenly ran into the house – for no reason! This inquiry was so honestly set forth as to disarm us of any anger or other misgivings at all. This was our Ronnie. I could see the tinge of guilt in his eye for not coming after us – he had no hint that we had encountered ‘him’ on the inside of this place. I could also appreciate his dilemma; and at least he did not leave the yard. He was just unable to get into the house. He did not realize that the ‘Ronnie’ that was on the inside, was a part of him, and this meant too that a part of him was a true hero, in a way that this, our Ronnie, would perhaps never know.

And, it was the right decision in the end…the creature within had easily fooled us all.

And there was no old woman at all, contrary to a popular rumor.

And, most importantly, Ronnie had recovered the ball.


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This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Stephanie Hodge

    I really like this story, and it had my attention.

  2. Kenneth Gary

    I would like to communicate with Sandra Hender directly if you would be so kind as to facilitate such

  3. ron Delmer

    Isn’t there anywhere l can hear someone read a book

  4. Mike

    Interesting! I hopevthat everyone’s MLK Day was good, plus I also hope that their Sunday is going both great and safe!

  5. Sandra Hender

    Loved this story. I never guessed the content which I usually am very good at; this one was one surprise after another. Never guessed the ending which I am very good at. Loved the whole story. From one writer to another…..great job!