Why build a manor way the hell out here?
The mansion stood deep in the heart of Ickhom Woods. A two-story colonial, shadowed by red oaks and pines.
I stepped from my truck, now covered in a fine sheet of dust. The afternoon sun warmed my skin and I pulled my backpack and camping gear from the hatch.
Ickhom Historical Society asked me to research the home after backpackers found it last month. Along with their request came detailed blueprints to review. Followed by research that verified the original owner. An English aristocrat named Reynold who built the home for his family in 1820, then disappeared soon after. The last recorded mention was by a local historian, Andrew Johnson in 1955.
My job was to photograph the mansion, documenting as much as possible.
I reached for my camera and walked toward the house.
The slate roof appeared intact. Flowering vines spanned the entire front of the manor creating a mosaic of white, red, and green. Pale-blue shutters framed the windows, and a large porch wrapped around the house.
I looked for the best angles to photograph. The society specific in their request for photos in and outside of the mansion.
I glanced through my camera, aiming at different views of the house when a subtle flutter caught my eye. A shadow that shifted in the second-story window. I looked up, hoping to see it again, but only still curtains remained, barely noticeable with the bright reflections of light off the windows.
A creeping unease left me anxious to complete the job even as I whispered to myself that I was just being silly.
Steps creaked beneath my boots and I imagined a symphony of whispers. Black rot ate through several of the porch’s wooden planks.
I pushed against the heavy wooden door. Its red paint, surprisingly still vibrant.
The manor opened into a large entrance way with a curved staircase leading to a second-story hallway. A crystal chandelier hung from the ceiling. Its glass creating reflections of silver, blue, and gold.
The air felt thick. Heavy with the scent of musk and mildew. Moisture beaded around the front Victorian windows and pale blue fabric padded the walls.
The hardwood floors were sturdy. No plant life grew indoors. No dust. The walls, although spotted with mold, weren’t deteriorating.
I covered my mouth and walked inside, passing through an ornate wooden door that led into a family room. A marble fireplace, the centerpiece of the room, appeared unused and in pristine condition. A fire poker leaned against the mantel.
The click of my camera was the only noise to disturb the silence. I closed my eyes and tried to imagine a manor filled with wealthy aristocrats in fancy clothes talking amongst each other in hushed whispers.
What conversations must have occurred in this room? What activities?
I imagined ladies in waiting and a gentleman reading by firelight in his straight-backed chair. A chair now overturned and moth-eaten in the corner.
Cool air brushed against my neck; a touch like fingertips caressing my skin. Pinpricks *verb* as though someone was standing close behind me.
I turned, looking for its source. Nothing moved except light and shadows in the dark.
Scratches beneath the overturned chair caught my eye.
“What the hell?”
My fingers traced the deep gouges. Scratches that led from the chair to the fireplace.
An uneasy knot formed in my throat and I moved into the next room.
Several anomalies struck me at once. The kitchen had no fireplace. Basil, lavender, and thyme hung from the ceiling, their scent potent and fresh.
There was no sink. No electricity. No running water. Yet the home was in good condition.
A soft creek echoed overhead.
Another soft creek overhead, causing the herbs to sway slightly. I hurried to the entrance way.
The chandelier swung above me. Its reflections of light forming countless jagged eyes, all staring at me from the back wall.
Dragging footsteps moved behind a closed door.
My camera remained by my side as the tarnished knob began to turn.
I sprinted from the house as the side door opened and a figure shifted in the dark.
The front door slammed behind me and I rushed to my truck, throwing my equipment in the hatch.
“Screw this. I’m out of here.”
I put my key in the ignition and glanced in the rear-view mirror.
The front door was open.
Wait a minute. It closed. You heard the door slam behind you.
I closed my eyes, thinking this wasn’t real.
“Pull yourself together, Pete. You’re letting a creepy old house get to you.”
I stepped out of my truck.
“This home is abandoned. For more than 100 years. You made it all the way out here. It’s still early and you have a job to do.”
Only the wind moved. A quiet rustle of branches and the subtle chirping of birds hiding in the foliage.
I took a deep breath and returned to the porch.
The chandelier was still. No jagged eyes stared from the back wall. The side door remained shut.
“Hello? Is anyone here?”
Silence met with silence.
See, it’s your imagination. There’s nothing here.
My footsteps diffused the quiet. Loud and heavy on the stairs.
You have a job to do. Don’t forget why you came here.
I hurried down the hall moving in and out of each room. Never staying longer than a few minutes. I didn’t care about the lack of furniture. Or the porcelain dolls with their black glass eyes that tracked my every movement.
Two more rooms. Only two more then I could leave. I readied my camera.
A brick enclave jutted from the back wall in what looked like a bedroom. Ruby red stones encased the window shrouding the room in darkness. The pyramid-like structure was not on any blueprints I’d studied.
A faint odor of rotted meat wafted through the brick.
A low hum seemed to originate from the stones and I couldn’t help myself. I touched one of the bricks. An intense burning seared my fingertips and I cried out rubbing my hands. Blisters bubbled to the surface of my skin. I hurried from the room.
The humming morphed into a quiet whisper. Words soft and indecipherable.
I glanced at the final, unexplored room. Should I chance it? The house felt alive with a watchful energy. Waiting for my decision.
Compelled, I moved to the final door.
Inside sat an eighteenth century, colonial-style mahogany writing desk. Polished to a near shine. Sitting atop the desk was a small, leather-bound book.
Across the room was a closet, its door ajar. Empty bookshelves covered the walls. This must have been a study or a reading room. Once.
I picked up the journal.
Friday, August 5, 1955 10 AM
Arrived early this morning, per the request of the society. I found it odd they asked me to make this journey and odder still at the near pristine condition of the house. How is it not falling apart from disuse and abandonment? I’ve never seen a place hold up so well against the elements.
Throughout the house, renovations appear half complete as though someone may live here, which in itself is ridiculous.
Another anomaly I cannot explain.
There’s no electricity, no water, no food or any real evidence of people living here. I’ve brought several days’ worth of supplies although I plan to finish photographing the house by tomorrow afternoon.
My car remains on the dirt path and I may sleep there for the night.
This place unsettles me.
Was this Andrew’s journal? Renovations? What renovations?
Friday, August 5, 1955 1 PM
I finished photographing the first floor. All morning strange noises reverberated through the manor. First what sounded like a quiet breeze coming from inside the house, then the chirping of birds. Eventually these sounds morphed into what I can only describe as low hum, like the sound of live wires in an electrical field.
Several bangs and thumps soon followed.
I’ve tried to locate the source of these sounds to no avail.
I must finish my work by dusk.
I refuse to spend the night.
Bangs and thumps. Wind and humming. And whispers. Soft, hushed whispers, which even now I hear coming from the other room.
Friday, August 5, 1955 4 PM
I’m losing my mind. I must be. Only minutes ago I hid in this closet while a skeletal figure walked across the hall, dragging its right leg. My hands won’t stop shaking. Even now I hear the whispers calling my name and the horrible dragging from the unfinished room across the hall.
The whispers say he is a demon. They cry to me. Wail to me. Ask me to help them.
They say he won’t stop. He won’t ever stop.
It’s unnatural but I am too terrified to move. If I remain quiet will the whispers finally cease?
If I remain hidden can he find and consume my soul?
I must escape.
This was crazy. I mean a demon? Walking the halls? No way this was real. The man was insane. Absolutely insane.
Another whisper from across the hall. Then a quiet sob. Finally, a soft voice.
Friday, August 5, 1955 7 PM
Reynold. You cannot have me. I tried to escape. Dear God I tried. The horrible dragging stopped and I took my chance, running from the room.
Why did I slow? Why did I glance at that horrible brick structure? Only to see a skeletal arm reach through a single ghastly black hole in its center. A skeletal arm followed by harsh sobs and shrieks.
Please, help us!
Why didn’t I run. Why did I look? The bodies. Dear God. Four bodies, half rotted with faces twisted in a silent scream. Huddled together behind the brick. Huddled together in the dark. Skeletal arms that somehow moved and reached for me.
Dragging footsteps resumed on the stairs and I ran.
I ran even as voices wailed behind me.
Now he’s here. An energy that wants to consume. At once filthy and manic.
I’m back in the closet but I’m going to try to escape. God help me I need to run before it’s too late. The light is fading. My limbs grow heavy.
I don’t have much time.
My fingers shook as I placed Andrew’s journal in my back pocket. I gagged at the memory of rotted meat, the scent wafting through the brick. Was he in there? His decomposing corpse mingled with the skeletons of four others?
What was I doing? I needed to leave. No longer did I care about my paycheck or the photos or anything except why I remained in this manor for far too long.
Sunlight had changed to a muted orange. Somehow I’d spent the entire afternoon reading only four entries.
I jogged passed the red room when a brush of air stopped me.
A woman’s voice coming from the brick enclave.
My fingers tightened on Andrew’s journal.
“I’m sorry,” I whispered, “I can’t”.
Down the hall to the staircase.
I’m so sorry.
I keep my eyes focused on the front door. Dragging, shambling footsteps scurry close behind.
I jump two steps at a time, then three. The door is close, so very close. A sudden movement of air. A flash of metal and pain. Such pain against my skull. I fall to the floor only feet from the exit.
Warmth trickles down my face. Two skeletal feet come into view. The right leg twisted and dragging behind the other. The fire poker clangs against the wall and my nails dig into the floor, leaving deep gouges as I’m dragged from my exit into the side room.
A cold, dead hand touches my face.
My vision fades. In the darkness I hear a single whisper.