Kid-friendly ghost story from Arkansas about a haunted house whose ghosts have a serious knack for baking. Written by Harris Tobias.
In the town of Blakeslee, Arkansas, there was a house that everyone knew was haunted. It was an old neglected house on a side street in the oldest part of town. Sometimes, the most wonderful smells issued from the house and filled the street with the heavenly odor of fresh baked bread. Whenever that happened, people would say that the old house must have been a bakery or, at the very least, the former home of a fabulous baker.
Sometimes, the neighbors would hear the sound of music and laughter coming from the empty house as if there was a wonderful party in full swing. Whenever that happened, the neighbors would look at each other and say, “It sounds like a nice party, I wish I was invited.” Whatever ghosts haunted the old house, they were benign and friendly ghosts. But even the friendliest spirits are scary and no one ever actually went inside the house. With the possible exception of a young boy being dared by his playmates, no one ever even stepped foot on the front porch.
One day a man moved into town from a distant city. He saw the empty house and asked the neighbors, “who owned it?” He was told the owner was unknown and that the property could be bought for back taxes. No one told the stranger about the house’s curious history. The man went to City Hall and purchased the property. Soon after moving in, however, strange things began to happen– odd noises in the night, weird lights drifting from room to room, the smells of baking from a cold kitchen and, worst of all, the sound of a party when the new owners were trying to sleep.
After a few days, the man’s wife declared that she could no longer live in so haunted a place and moved out taking the children with her. Before long, the man gave up as well. He was forced to find another place to live but he was angry at the neighbors for not warning him about the house’s reputation. He was angry at the town board for not telling him that the house was occupied by ghosts. In fact he was angry at everyone in town for treating him so badly. So he went to the mayor to complain and see if he could get his money back. The mayor refused saying he never misrepresented the house as anything it was not. “Just because a house is haunted,” he said, “doesn’t mean you can’t live there. The trick is making friends with the ghosts, learning to get along with them.”
So the man went to the pastor of the local church and told him his problem. The pastor said, “You’ve been in town for a month and only now, when you’re having a problem, do you come and see me? Well, sit down and tell me what’s on your mind.”
So the man sat and told the pastor about the haunted house he’d bought. Now the pastor in this village was considered a wise man, set in his ways, conservative in his manner and beliefs. He wasn’t open to new ideas but, reluctantly, he agreed to visit the house and see exactly what the man was talking about.
The pastor accompanied the man to the house. As they approached the block the house was on, the pastor’s smelled a delicious smell. “What’s that wonderful smell?” he asked.
“It’s the ghosts baking bread,” the man replied.
When they got closer, the pastor stopped to listen. He turned to the man and inquired, “I hear music. Is someone having a party?”
“It’s the ghosts having a party,” replied the man.
They went inside and looked around the empty house. The pastor sat at a table while the man looked for something to serve his guest. He found an old bottle of whiskey and poured a glass for the pastor and one for himself. They toasted each others health and drank.
“So you moved from Little Rock to Blakeslee?” said the pastor. “My parents live in Little Rock, I know the town well.”
The man, it turned out, knew some of the pastor’s relatives. They talked and joked about those things they had in common and felt a friendship growing. They were having such a pleasant time that before they knew it, three hours had passed.
They were gone so long, the man’s wife began to get nervous. “He went to the pastor’s house hours ago,” she said to herself. “Maybe the ghosts got him.” So she picked herself up and went to the pastor’s house and introduced herself to the pastor’s wife. Together they pooled their misgivings about ghosts and their worries about their husbands and went to the haunted house together. They peeked in the windows and saw the two men sitting at a table drinking , laughing and having a good time. The wives joined their husbands and found that they had much to talk about.
The laughing and talking attracted the neighbors who stopped by and introduced themselves. Pretty soon the kitchen was filled with the smell of cooking. A neighbor brought his fiddle and another brought his guitar. And just like that, there was a party. The old house filled with real smells and real laughter. It was alive again and that, of course, was what it wanted all along.
From that day to this, the old house came alive again and its ghosts were laid to rest never to be seen or heard of again.
-THE END –
About the author
Harris Tobias lives and writes in Charlottesville, Virginia. He is the author of The Greer Agency , A Felony of Birds and dozens of short stories. His fiction has appeared in Ray Gun Revival, Dunesteef Audio Magazine, Literal Translations, FriedFiction, Down In The Dirt, Eclectic Flash, E Fiction and many other publications. His poetry has appeared in Vox Poetica, The poem Factory and The Poetry Super Highway. You can find links to his novels at: http://harristobias-fiction.blogspot.com/