The aged door of the mansion creaked on its rusty hinges as Vera pushed it open, thunder cracking and lighting up the clouded sky as rain poured overhead. It spattered audibly on the cracked flagstones that made up the pathway leading to the entrance of the long abandoned building, through disheveled plants and out of control weeds that choked the once elegant grounds. This structure had been vacant for decades, the proud and elaborate stonework falling into disrepair as the elements and the creeping vines clawed at it. Loose shutters on the upper floors blew backwards and forwards in the gale, banging against their frames as the wind howled like a banshee. Flashes of lightning illumined carved stone gargoyles that looked down on her from the roof, their contorted features visible only for a moment before they were plunged back into inky darkness.
She entered the main hall, the heavy oak door closing behind her to muffle the sounds of the storm. She raised her flashlight, tapping the battery pack with her palm when it flickered, then shone it around the room. It was, or rather had once been, exquisite. A giant chandelier hung from the ceiling, once a shining centerpiece of glittering crystal, now obscured by a forest of cobwebs and an age of dust. Twin sets of mahogany staircases with intricately carved banisters wound around the room leading to a landing and the second floor, the carpets that in the past had decorated them now moth-eaten and disheveled. The water damage was everywhere, the structure had surely been condemned by the city council, not that anyone dared to set foot here.
If the local legends were to be believed, this old manor was haunted. The stories told that many decades ago, on this very night, the lady of the house had slain her husband after he had caught her with their maid. She had been sentenced to hang, and it was said that to this day her spirit haunted these walls in search of her former lover. Locals spoke of unearthly wails during storms, and of glimpsing pale faces in the windows of the upper floors that peered out at anyone who dared approach her sanctuary. None would venture near the iron fence that marked the boundaries of the property for fear of seeing some bad omen or meeting a vengeful apparition, superstitious as these small-town folk were.
Vera didn’t know about all that, but this was a perfect opportunity to snap some photos for her blog and maybe record some audio for her paranormal podcast. Vera ran her own website where she explored the paranormal, seeking out ghosts and local legends, and interviewing prominent researchers in the field. She had done some urban exploring in the past, but this was the first time she had ventured into a genuine haunted mansion during a storm. She hadn’t planned for it, she had only intended to ask about about the history of the place, but the opportunity was impossible to pass up. The howling winds and cracks of thunder would provide an unbeatable backdrop to her commentary. It would be worth taking some video too, this location was better than any horror movie set.
She fumbled in the bag that was slung over her shoulder, searching for her camera and audio equipment. She was on her own today, so she’d have to use the handheld and hope that the mic picked everything up. She strapped the camcorder to her hand and turned it on, panning it around the hall. The grainy footage gave it an even creepier vibe, this was ghost hunting gold.
She made her way forward, the patterned tiles squeaking under her wet sneakers. It was hard to believe that such a lavish mansion could have been left to decay like this, perhaps there was some truth to the tales? Unlikely, she was reminded of the term ‘housepoor’, where all of ones funds were expended on maintaining a building. Whoever had inherited this monstrous property must have been completely unable to care for it, but unwilling to sell, and thus had let it deteriorate.
Vera entered the right wing, shining the flashlight over musty furniture covered over with plastic and white sheets, trying to illuminate it for her camera. Decorative plasterwork molded to imitate pillars and marble crumbled on the walls and ceiling, and the paint peeled from murals like dry skin. There were cobwebs everywhere, and wherever she shone her flashlight beam, it illuminated floating specs of dust. Perhaps it had been unwise to enter without a protective mask, who knew what kind of fungal growths were feeding on the moisture in the walls, or if the whole place was full of asbestos?
All of the windows were smeared with grime to the point that the flashes of lightning barely penetrated, and it was oddly quiet, as if the house were in some kind of bubble that insulated it from outside noise. Her footsteps and the creaking of her wet soles on the tile echoed through the house. She realized she was soaked to the bone, she had been so excited that she hadn’t even noticed. She had parked her car at the property’s iron gate and had rushed from the warmth and shelter of her vehicle to the mansion’s door as fast as she could go. Her dark hair stuck to her pale skin, her cheeks flushed from the brief stint of exercise, and her blue blouse was completely waterlogged. She examined herself with disdain, noticing that her black bra was showing through the thin fabric. Great choice Vera, wear black underwear during a rainstorm. At least her yoga pants seemed reasonably dry.
There wasn’t much to see on the lower floors, just old furniture, and so she traced her steps back to the main hall. She looked up at the dual staircase, and her heart skipped a beat. All of the sightings of the alleged ghost had put her on the upper floors, glaring through the windows with her pale face, as if daring passers by to cross her threshold. Vera wasn’t actually scared, was she? She was just trembling because she was cold and soaked to the bone, that was it. She got a good wide shot of the stairs and then mounted them, running her hand along the carved banister as she made her way up. The steps creaked under her weight, and she had to hope that the damp and no doubt termite-ridden staircase would not simply fall apart.
With an audible sigh of relief Vera reached the landing, scanning her flashlight beam down the halls to her left and right. There was carpet here too, it had once been blood red and embroidered with golden flowers. It was frayed and dull now, but it must have been beautiful in its prime. She got some pictures with her camera, then decided to take some video as she walked down the hall. Who knew, maybe she’d spy some telltale ghostly orbs when she ran back the footage, those were always great for page views.
It was hard to hold both her camera and her torch at the same time, but she did her best, trying to keep the beam and the camera pointed in the same direction. She would have brought along her camera guy, Steve, if she had known she would be doing this in advance, but this was the price she paid for her spontaneity. As she passed one of the many rooms, a chill came over her. She had already been cold and wet, but this was something else, a creeping freezing sensation that ran up her spine like icy fingers. She shivered, and spun around to point her flashlight back down the hall. There was nobody there, of course. Stupid Vera, you’re letting the spooky atmosphere get to you, that atmosphere was the whole reason she was here in the first place.
She came to a large window to her right that looked out over the grounds. This one was somewhat cleaner than the others, and she wiped at the glass with her sleeve to brush away some of the dust, leaning forward to peer outside. This was where people claimed to have seen the ghost, her pale face framed in these grimy windows, perhaps not this window in particular but this floor in general. She chuckled to herself, would a passer by mistake her chalky face for that of the resident spirit?
Lightning flashed, lighting up Vera’s reflected face in the window. But it wasn’t her face. She shrieked, pulling away from the glass and falling backwards as the visage of a ghostly stranger with sunken eyes and no nose to speak of glared at her from beyond the pane. As quickly as it had come, the apparition vanished, leaving Vera tearful and panting in the darkness. She had dropped her flashlight and broken it, the camera only remained in her hand because of the strap and her bag had disgorged its contents. Her heart was beating like a drum as she fumbled on the dirty carpet for her torch, perhaps she had just knocked the batteries loose. Her fingers brushed something, it felt like leather. Confused, she ran her hand upwards, tracing the contours of what she assumed must be some kind of lamp. As another flash of lightning illuminated the hall, a figure was revealed to her, burned into her retinas like a photograph.
Long leather boots laced with string, shackles bolted around the ankles attached to chains that trailed beyond Vera’s view, and innumerable belts that were wrapped around the entity’s thick thighs. Vera looked up, kneeling before the apparition, rooted to the floor with crippling terror. It had the form of a woman, middle aged with an ample figure, its skin so pale as to appear almost blue and somehow translucent. Leather belts were strapped around its limbs and torso as if they were bandages, failing to conceal its wide hips and considerable chest that hung free of its bonds. On its wrists too were shackles, trailing ghostly chains into the darkness, and it peered down at her with sunken eyes whose pupils glowed yellow in the gloom. It seemed to have no hair, merely a trailing wisp of spectral matter that faded into nothing.
.... There is more of this story ...