Kentucky ghost story of a haunted house that holds the key to the mysterious past of a young girl.
Written by Samantha Frazier Gordon
You can feel a presence before you see it. The presence that had taken up residence in the house on Black River could reach clear across the county. But it didn’t have to; it made you come to it.
Some places hold us captive by their beauty, some hold us captive by their history and other places just hold us captive. Grace knew exactly what the clapboard house looked like from the inside out, even though she had never been inside. She knew that the kitchen had yellow and white checkered gingham curtains that were hung askew and the lace sewn on the bottom was tattered and hanging by a thread. The kitchen countertops were mint green Formica and they had started to bow some time ago but no effort had been put into fixing the problem, before too long it would all peel off, exposing the rotting wood. The living room was small as was the dining room, both filled with pieces of mismatched furniture in various stages of ruin. People used to live here, but there was never any life.
The upstairs did not have a bathroom but it did have two bedrooms and there was a small attic with two small windows. Grace was certain the oldest child was a girl and that she slept in the attic, against her will. Grace didn’t have any siblings and she didn’t have any friends and she decided you couldn’t miss what you didn’t have. Grace didn’t have a mother, at least that’s what her father told her, she left before Grace could walk. Sometimes she could make out the voice of a woman; she was always whispering something indiscernible and smelled of honeysuckle. She wished she could remember more so she could think about that, rather than think about the things she didn’t have.
When they came to Black River her father seemed to disappear. She could still see him, but he could no longer see her, an absence took over as he looked straight ahead, he never even looked at his fishing pole, just pulled the pole out of the water, grabbed the line, all in one motion, without even blinking. Every now and then he would call to her to fetch him a peanut butter sandwich from the bag, even his voice lacked presence.
She knew it was the house, it hypnotized him and he couldn’t get loose of the spell, she just didn’t know why. There was no doubt the house had some mysterious power; she wondered how something could be both dead and alive at the same time. The windows were all covered with that thick plastic people used to keep out the weather. The plastic was secured with pieces of lath and nails so she was never able to see in it to ascertain the cause of its death. It looked as though some of the corners had been torn or cut, something trying to get in or something trying to get out.
Sometimes in the afternoon her father would put down his pole and lean up against the old willow tree for a nap. It afforded her time to wander, she desperately wanted to go inside the house, but her father had forbidden her to do so, but one day she knew she would, she had to. She walked up the winding path to the main road and started walking. When she looked back all that was visible was a thick canopy of willow trees and it blocked out the sun and held in the secrets. There was a little store about a half a mile down the road, she always saw it when they went by and always wanted to stop, but he never would. It had an old soda cooler out front; she was desperately thirsty and wanted something cold to drink. She had three quarters, hopefully that would be enough to buy a grape soda.
There was a hand painted sign on a gnarled piece of wood that was attached to a pole that had been stuck in an old milk can and it read “Rusty’s Bait.” It didn’t look as though the place had been painted in years and the screen door didn’t close all the way. Grace loved how the wind played with her, the way it picked up the scattered leaves and carried them to some unknown destination and she wanted to go too. Grace was mesmerized by the way the screen door creaked when the wind would catch it and then release it. Grace noticed the bulls eye window above the front door and it seemed so out of place, as though it was beckoning you to look through its swirling glass. The swirling pattern seemed to change shape and color and it reminded her of a kaleidoscope she used to have. She walked over to the soda machine to see if there was a price, but she didn’t see one. She would need to go inside and ask. She reached for the screen door handle but now it seemed to be stuck, she had been watching the wind open it, but now it wouldn’t budge.
You can feel a presence before you can see it. She kept pulling on the handle and she knew someone was behind her, she was afraid to turn around, but she had no place to go, the wind wasn’t about to carry her away to some unknown destination. When she turned around she was staring at two glowing red eyes, the belt buckle said snake eyes. She looked up and saw a heavily bearded man staring down at her with a grimace that covered his entire body.
“How many times have I told you not to come here, Gracie?” His voice was jarring and how did he know her name, why did he call her Gracie? No one ever called her that.
“I’ve never been here, this is my first time.” She knew he wasn’t going to hurt her so she asked him. “How did you know my name?”
“You ask me that same question every time.” He shook his head, reached down and moved her aside so he could open the door. He turned to look back at her.
“Are you comin’ in this time or what?” She followed him into the store and the door slammed behind her. There was a musty smell in the air and the floor creaked as she walked. When she looked up she wasn’t sure what to think, but she was sure this wasn’t a bait shop. All of the shelves had Instamatic cameras on them, some with new flashes and some with spent flashes but nothing else. She looked around and noticed a bulletin board next to the door with pictures stuck to it.
“What kind of a bait shop is this, I don’t see any bait?”
“Don’t need no bait, just people that are curious.”
“About that house.”
“Have you been inside?” He hesitated to answer.
“No, it won’t let me in.”
“I know what it looks like inside.”
“I know you do, that’s the problem.”
Grace wasn’t sure what he meant by that and she wasn’t sure what she was supposed to do, but before she could say anything he handed her a camera. She took it from him but wasn’t sure why. The camera had a shiny new flashbulb on it and it was ready to take pictures, she just didn’t know of what.
“You have four shots to …” As he said that she hit the button and the flash went off.
“You have three shots to get answers to your questions.”
“About the house?”
“I know your questions Gracie, I just don’t know which ones you want answers to and which ones you don’t, only you do. But you can’t hang around here anymore, it’s time to move on. So use the three flashes you have wisely and don’t look back.”
She left the bait shop and let the screen door slam behind her. She knew she wouldn’t be able to open that door again. She stared at the road and started walking towards Black River. She knew the wind was still blowing because she could see the leaves on the trees moving, but there was no sound. As she walked along she noticed little swirls of dust dancing around keeping pace with her reluctant stride. As she got closer to the path going down to the river they stopped and let her go ahead. She looked back and saw them as though they were suspended in midair, waiting.
The only way to get across the river was a fallen tree, the bridge washed out years ago for reasons no one cared to explain. The tree wasn’t quite long enough to cover the width of the river, so she knew she would get her feet wet, but the river wasn’t very deep where the tree ended. She carefully climbed off of the tree and walked through the shadowy water and up to the grass. She saw the plastic flapping but there was still no sound, as she walked around the back of the house she saw an old rope hanging from one of the willow trees. It had a knot tied at the bottom so she knew it used to be a swing. She kept walking up the incline towards the back door of the house still uncertain how she would use the camera. She felt something with her foot, she looked down and it was the board that went to the swing. She saw the notches carved out on each side so it would slip onto the rope. She picked it up and saw the name Gracie carved in it. She dropped it and kept walking until she reached the back door.
You can feel a presence before you can see it, and sometimes it’s too late.
But some things can change in a flash.
She knew he was behind her, but she didn’t take the time to look. She reached for the door handle and opened the door. Her mother and her sister were both lying on the floor, dead, in a pool of blood. Her mother still had the camera in her hand. Grace wouldn’t panic this time, she ran to her mother and grabbed the camera out of her hand. The last frame was blank; Grace needed to get to the picture when the killer first walked in the house and flash forward to change the course of the day. But he had other plans for her.
“You got lucky last time, I ain’t about to let that happen again.” He walked towards her and grabbed for her, knocking the camera out of her hand. The flash went off on the other camera when she stumbled. Two flash forwards left. She struggled to get the old flash off so she could reposition it, praying she got the first one so she could flash ahead with the two she had left. Charlotte in her party dress, the first picture her mother took. Flash forward.
Her mother told her to go out to the shed and bring in Charlotte’s new bicycle. She had seen the man leaning up against the old willow tree by Black River on and off for the last couple of days. Her mother told her not to worry, he was probably just fishing and there was no crime in leaning on trees. But now he was walking across the yard towards the house, for no good reason. Grace was no match for him, but Luke was. Luke wasn’t a smart dog but he was a fearless one. She ran back to untie him so he could go with her into the house. She ran as fast as she could, as she ran through the open door she heard her mother tell her to run away.
“Who are you, what do you want?” Her mother screamed when she saw the knife. Gracie let go of Luke, there was no need to tell him what to do. He heard the dog and turned towards Luke but Luke was already there and with the first hit Luke knocked the knife right out of his hand and sent him to the floor and struggling to get away from Luke. Luke wasn’t a smart dog, but he was fearless. Flash forward.
It was a perfect July day in Weavers Junction, Kentucky. Charlotte wanted to ride her bike so Gracie and her mother walked behind her. Charlotte slowed down until they caught up.
“I’m thirsty, let’s stop at the bait shop and get a soda.”
Gracie wanted to tell her sister and her mom, but she kept silent. Charlotte parked the bike and they walked towards the soda machine, still no price. They would need to go inside. When Charlotte reached for the screen door handle it opened with no effort. Gracie was the last one to walk through the door and she knew they shouldnít be going in. She stopped as soon as she got inside.
“Wait, this has bait in it.”
Charlotte responded, “It’s a bait shop, what did you expect them to have?”
She looked around; the bulletin board with the pictures was still there so she walked over to look at them. There he was, clear as day, Rusty. She called to her mom as she pointed at the picture.
“Mom, I know him, this is…”
“Yes honey, that’s your father in his uniform. He was a wonderful man. One day I’ll put back the pictures. I don’t like thinking about what I don’t have…but he loved you very much Gracie, he will always be with you. Fathers always look out for their little girls.”
Gracie wasn’t sure what it all meant, or how it all happened but here she was. She wandered around the store looking at all of the fishing paraphernalia and as she walked around a display of fishing knives there he was, the man with the knife, staring down at her. He spoke to her, almost in a whisper.
“Third time’s a charm Gracie..”
You can feel a presence before you see it and not a camera in sight.
Luke had chased him, but not far enough.
She heard her mother call her and she started backing away and moved towards the door. Gracie heard Charlotte and her mother go out the door, when she backed into the door she turned to face it. She didn’t want to see his face again, but she had to make sure it was real.
When she turned back to make sure it was the would be killer, Rusty emerged from behind the counter and smiled at Gracie as he made he way towards the man. She went through the door and let the screen door slam. She had to be sure, she turned to open the screen door to take one last look but the door was stuck, and no matter how hard she pulled it refused to open.
You can feel a presence before you see it, and by the time he saw snake eyes, it was too late.