It was a hot and muggy Texas evening. I was visiting my grandmother—she was so lenient, it was scary… but that’s an entirely different story. I loved visiting her because every year was an adventure, though the visit when I was twelve years old might have been a bit more exciting than I liked. We were playing in my friend Becky’s backyard, slow and lethargic due to the heat. My first major crush, Mike, was poking a dead snake with a stick—fun stuff.
It started as a suggestion, turned into a dare, and exploded from there. Visit the haunted house at the edge of the neighborhood. I was game. It beat poking a snake, that’s for sure. With the heat as bad as it was and the mosquitos appearing in masses, inside sounded better than outside. Besides, though my father believed otherwise, I was sure that ghosts were nothing but fantasy.
We made the three block trek to the broken-down, abandoned home at the end of a cul de sac. It was a Victorian, built at the turn of the century (yeah, I didn’t know that at the time, but I do remember thinking the house was really pretty, even as decimated as it looked). The porch was askew, rotten boards poking up all over the place. Windows were broken or boarded over. Oddly enough, the front door was solid and locked. After Mike almost fell through the rotting porch, we decided to check out the back. After only a couple seconds wading through the knee-high grass, I decided I was better off with any ghost lurking in the house than the snakes, spiders, and scorpions hiding in the grass. But at that age I refused to show any weakness, especially in front of two boys. So I trooped on, praying with every step that there wasn’t anything deadly lying in wait.
For better or worse, the dilapidated back door was hanging off its hinges. The moment of truth had arrived: go inside an abandoned house that was probably the lair of every criminal in the area or look foolish in front of a boy—obviously a no-brainer. Inside we went.
The door creaked and groaned when Greg pushed it open, the perfect sound to start our haunted house adventure. We entered a kitchen that was nothing but a skeleton. Even the cabinet doors had been stolen. A strange smell filled the air, musty but something more. At the time I didn’t recognize it, but now it’s a smell I associate with death. As we passed into the dining room, Mike and Greg had to turn on their flashlights due to the setting sun coupled with the boarded-up windows. It’s amazing how much a little darkness can add to the freak factor.
Scared out of my mind, I grabbed onto Mike’s arm, drawn to the light and his potential ability to protect me from the things that go bump in the night. Arm in arm we crept around the downstairs, our footsteps echoing on the hardwood floor. It couldn’t have been creepier if someone staged it: dirty white sheets over furniture, a dusty old bookcase with rotting books, and cobwebs everywhere. As we passed the bookshelf, something grabbed my hair. I whipped around, ready to yell at Greg for trying to scare me, but he and Becky were across the room examining an armoire. When I turned back toward Mike, he was busy pulling cobwebs from my hair. With a soft whimper, I pawed at my hair, searching for the millions of spiders I just knew were there. Did I forget to mention that I used to hate spiders?
Mike wrapped both arms around me, pulling me into a tight hug. My heart melted at the sweet gesture until I realized he was trying to silence me. Steady footsteps sounded from upstairs.
Thud, thud, creak, thud.
We stood in silence at the bottom of the stairs, gazing into the inky darkness of the second floor landing. Who or what was upstairs? Mike and Greg both extinguished the flashlights, leaving us in shadows. My eyes strained as I continued to stare upstairs, listening for more noises in the sudden silence.
We stood frozen, too frightened to move. A series of loud thuds broke whatever trance was holding us hostage. To my chagrin, Mike shoved me away in his fervor to flee the house. I watched his back disappear into the kitchen before grabbing Becky’s hand and dragging her toward the door. We burst out into the twilight, my eyes darting around looking for Mike and Greg. Those louses were gone. They seriously left us behind to be eaten, killed, or whatever by the menace lurking in the house.
Four days later there was a report on the news about a child molester found hiding in that same house. It wasn’t a ghost after all, but something much worse: a real-life monster. I consider myself lucky to have escaped, but the experience did not leave me unscathed. I developed a keen fear of real-life monsters, one that plagues me even today. It also sent me on a quest to find a chivalrous guy, one who would fight at my side, rather than leave me behind while he fled. I’m happy to say that those guys do exist, so if you haven’t found yours yet, keep looking.
But most of all, this experience cultivated an interest in paranormal hunting that has grown with me. While it’s true that I’ve never experienced anything that I can definitively label as paranormal, I refuse to give up. Life is full of mysteries, and one of the joys in my life is pursuing them.
Kimber Leigh Wheaton is a bestselling YA/NA author with a soft spot for sweet romance. She is married to her soul mate, has a teenage son, and shares her home with three dogs, four cats, and lots of dragons. No, she doesn’t live on a farm, she just loves animals. Kimber Leigh is addicted to romance, videogames, superheroes, villains, and chocolate—not necessarily in that order. (If she has to choose, she’ll take a chocolate covered superhero!) She currently lives in San Antonio, TX but has been somewhat a rolling stone in life, having resided in several different cities and states.