Once upon a time, my parents bought a little house on the Cape. It was an investment; we had our family house already, but Dad figured he’d buy another, hold it for a few years, then sell it at a profit.
I loved the house. It was fully furnished, and I thought the layout was cooler than our other house. But it was strange, because there was still stuff in the closets—toys and clothes and all that. Dad told us that the family had to move suddenly.
The first time I stayed at the house, it was winter, and bitter cold. I went to bed, and in the middle of the night, I woke up because I was freezing. My window was open, which was odd, because I didn’t remember opening it. I closed it and flipped the lock, figuring it had a funky spring.
In the morning, it was open again.
I guessed that I got hot and re-opened it. But I had no memory of doing that.
Fast forward to another visit when my friend and I were staying there together. There was a marble-topped bureau in my room, and in the morning, it was covered with pennies. “Why’d you leave all this change here?” I asked.
“I didn’t,” my friend said.
Okay. Well…she must have.
And then…then came the summer I was living up at the other house on the Cape. My parents asked me to clean the newer house between renters, and so I did, bringing my own laundry over, since my place didn’t have a washer or dryer. I finished cleaning, and because it was so hot, went down cellar to read as my laundry finished drying.
I sat in a folding chair and read.
And then…suddenly…I was freezing.
I could see my breath.
And I was terrified. The hair on my neck stood up, and dread washed over me in a sickening wave.
There was only one thought in my head, repeating over and over. Don’t turn around. Don’t turn around. Don’t turn around.
But the stairs were behind me.
I also knew I couldn’t stay.
Before another second had passed, I bolted for the bulkhead stairs, threw open the doors and burst into the backyard and hot sunshine. I was almost surprised to be alone. The bulkhead doors yawned open and I rubbed my arms, still freezing cold.
After a few minutes, I settled down. But my laundry was still down there. All my clothes and towels for the week.
It took me half an hour to work up the courage to go back down…slowly, slowly.
It was no longer freezing cold…just cool and damp. Still, I grabbed my laundry and ran back up the stairs, locking the door behind me. I never did laundry there again.
A few years later, we sold the house. I was helping my dad pack up some stuff, and when we got in the U-Haul, I told him the story of that summer day.
“Well, yeah,” Dad said in his matter-of-fact way. “The house is haunted. That’s why your mother will never stay here.”
“What?” I screeched. “Why wasn’t I informed?”
“I thought you knew,” Dad said. “The wife…she killed herself.”
That explained a lot. Why there were still clothes in the closet. Dishes in the cupboards. Toys in the kids’ rooms.
“How?” I asked.
“Well,” Dad said more gently. “She hanged herself in the cellar.”
Over the next fourteen years, that house was sold again and again and again. Every time I went to the Cape, it seemed like there was a For Sale sign in the yard.
Finally, when I was checking the house out one day, a man came out and walked over to my car. “Can I help you?” he asked. I explained that my family had once owned this house. “How do you like it?” I asked.
“You mean, do we find any pennies?”
“Yes! Do you?” I asked.
“No, he said. “I guess that stopped with the last owners. Whatever was here seems gone now.”
May she rest in peace.