“Another Haunted House” a short story

“Another Haunted House” by Sean Boyd

The sun was hidden behind malignant clouds as darkness descended on the yard.  You could smell the approaching wrath and the air was electric from the impending storm.  For those few minutes before the wind attacked the world was silent.  The trees and the old house braced themselves for the furor that announced itself with the quiet that consumed the valley.  There were no singing birds, no animals scurrying, and not a twitch of grass as the world accepted its fate.

Looking for a week of solitude I had answered an ad for a country house for rent.  It looked pleasant and serene in the pictures on the rental agency’s website and the price was right.  I made most of the arrangements via e-mail and was surprised to get a phone call from the agent to confirm my plans.

-Now you know the house hasn’t been inhabited for a long time.

-I can’t imagine why, it looks so quaint.

-The owners are trying to sell it.  It has been on the market for a while.

-Is the price too high?

-No it’s a great price.

-Well how long has it been for sale?

-Twenty-eight years.

-What! The price must be too high.

-No, actually the price is quite attractive and we show the house a lot.  It’s not that it’s a bad deal, just the right buyer hasn’t shown up.

What she was telling me just didn’t make sense.  Country homes had been selling like crazy over the last few years.  I got a sense that there was more she wanted to tell me.

-What is it about the house?

-Well, most people get spooked when they go there.  Even on beautiful sunny days.  It always starts out fine, the potential buyers ecstatic about their find, and then something happens and they leave…in a hurry.

-What are you saying?

-Sir, the house has its own personality.  It sort of possesses its own character.

-Haunted! You should be able to charge double.  People love a thrill.  Have you tried advertising it as such?

She knew I was making fun of her for believing the house was haunted, but without getting insulted she simply said she wanted me to know and hung up.

I arrived and went for a walk after dropping my bags on the porch.  I laughed when I remembered how serious the agent had sounded on the phone.  It was a perfect little country house and looked comfortable and inviting from every angle as I walked around the yard.  It sat in a valley surrounded by massive oak and ash trees at the end of the single-track dirt lane.  The circular drive was a remnant of the days of horses and buggies which didn’t turn around or back up with any grace.  The old hitching post, with its many layers of paint, pre-dated the Industrial Revolution.  The house obviously had a long history and had witnessed the births and deaths of many generations.  Even in the stillness you could sense the house’s memories.

As darkness embraced the valley I could tell the weather would soon break.  I headed towards the front porch to enjoy the storm.  The porch had a hanging, two-seater chair flanked by two old-fashioned rockers.  As I turned the corner of the house, one of the rocking chairs abruptly stopped rocking.  I sat in the other chair to leave room for ‘the ghost’.  I was charmed by the idea of staying in a house that had so much personality it seemed to be haunted.  I cracked a beer that was still cold from the store and rocked as the sky grew black.  

The storm hit like a tsunami.  I heard it before it reached me as nature cried ”Havoc” and let loose the dogs of storm.  The wind and the rain moved in a unified front and I could hear the pounding as it made its way across the darkened vale.  I had hoped to watch the storm from the porch, but it arrived with a roar that chased me inside.  Branches broke off the trees and the debris and the rain drove sidelong in the raging wind.  I grabbed my bags and retreated inside, already soaked from just a few seconds of the onslaught.  With my back to the door I found the light switch and had my first look inside the house.

The low-ceiled, small rooms were either cozy or oppressive, I couldn’t decide which.  The leaded glass of the windows had warped and sagged over the years, and gave an eerie perspective when one looked through them to the outside.  The house had a quaint, if ominous, charm.  The dark, rich wood of the banister, the wide-plank floors, and the ancient hardware on the doors and windows made me feel like I had tripped back in time.  The furnishings presented a decidedly country feel, with worn antiques, flower prints on the sofa, and caned chairs.  

The house only had three rooms downstairs.  To the right off the foyer was the living room with a large, stone fireplace and an oval rug taking up most of the floor.  There were a few lamps with glass shades sitting on tables of simple but hardy style.  There was a couch facing the fireplace and a large, over-stuffed chair close by the fire.  The mantle was a huge flat stone that ran eight feet across the front of the chimney.  To the left was a dining room and through it was the kitchen.  I carried the provisions I had brought, beer and breakfast, to the kitchen and placed them in the refrigerator and went back through the dining room.  One side of the dining room was all windows overlooking the front yard. Under the windows was a credenza that held some hand-blown glassware.  On the wall opposite the windows there was a well-worn escritoire with fine inlay, an ink well, and a single drawer.  Facing this was a chair with a cushion on the seat that was tied in place with ribbons.  In the center of the room sat a large oak table surrounded by six high-backed chairs with hand-carved arms.  The floorboards creaked as I walked to the living room, and I sensed the toll time had taken on the house.  I lit a fire and sat on the sofa listening to the crackling flames and the storm outside.  

The rivers of lightning bathed the interior in momentary brightness as the time between the flashes and the rumblings of thunder grew less.  As the storm battered the trees outside, the old house moaned and its ancient bones cracked and cried as the tempest exerted its will.  The rain pouring off the roof complained like the babble of many generations and the wind howled liked the wail of wolves at the door.  I wondered if my sense of security was false when I heard a great crashing as the wind tore a limb from a tree.  These great trees had stood a long time, but surely the felling of one in the wrong direction would be the house’s demise.  

I listened to the storm and watched the torrent of abuse hurled from the heavens torture the valley.  When the storm was overhead the thunder was so intimate it sounded like the roof beams were being torn asunder.  The explosions began minutely like someone was tearing paper by your ear, and grew into a violent ripping as if Nature itself was being torn in two.  The low rumbling would crescendo into a concussive retort that rattled one’s bones.  It sounded like field artillery in action on the second floor of the house.  The windows shook in their frames, the trees cried out in their pain, the house groaned in its exertion, and the fire crackled insecurely in its grate.  The static charge in the air filled my body with elation that was not totally devoid of fear.

I could hear the wind breaking around the house and whistling through any holes it could find.  The conquering gale marched on as if intent on whisking the house away to some distant location.  In a lull between thunderclaps I heard a massive cracking as a tree yielded to the wind.  I looked through a window that faced the direction from which the death cry had come and in the next flash of light saw a huge ash lying across the driveway.  I was just beginning to feel lucky that it had not taken down the power line when the lights fizzled and went black.  There were miles of over-head power lines that supplied my little get-away, and at it was not hard to imagine the wind that had broken the large tree making spaghetti of the wires throughout the area.  By the light of the flashes I searched the kitchen and found a flashlight.  Of course its batteries were dead, but I also found a few candles.

The flickering light of the fire and candles made shadow dances across the walls and floor.  The scene triggered strong emotions.  Feelings of security, comfort, and romance blended with a rush of fear, a belief in evil, and terror.  The fire was warm and comforting and there was a certain romance in being secure from the elements far from the distractions and hustle of the city.  On the other hand I felt a channel, a spiral of archetypal, irrational fear forming – encasing and asphyxiating my rational process.  Here I was alone in a creepy old house with no electricity about which I had ignored a not-so-subtle warning.  Catalyzing this fear, I knew the driveway was blocked and any desire to take flight would be limited to a very long walk.  

When the violent part of the storm had passed, only the steady strumming of the rain continued.  Though it wasn’t the gentle strumming of a lullaby, it was more like a garage band thrashing out a Sex Pistols song.  Against the cacophony it was hard to make out other sounds, but various noises kept attracting my attention.  Sounds of shuffling and phlegmatic wheezing blended in and out of the pounding rain.  My ears struggled to discern these and other noises from the gray noise of the storm.  My beer was empty and wanted another, but something kept me glued to the couch.  In fact I couldn’t move.  It seemed that I was slowly getting sucked into the couch as if it was attempting to digest me.  My senses lulled and the mesmerizing effect of the rain and the popping of the fire subdued my reflexes.  A loud crackle from the hearth sent a shower of sparks up the flue and a glowing projectile onto the rug.  From the depths of my hypnotized state I heard a distant voice say, “Do something to save yourself, man.” I lurched, struggled, and fought my way free from the couch.  Though the thunder had passed and the wind was dieing down, as I gained an upright posture the house shook violently and I discerned an exasperated sigh over the noise of the rain.

I threw another log on the fire and put the spark screen in front of the hearth.  Then I went to retrieve another beer from the kitchen.  I regretted not having brought more groceries.  I wasn’t sure when I would be able to get down the driveway and wished I hadn’t rushed through the market in my haste to get out of the city.  I checked the phone and found that along with the electricity, the phone lines were down.  I checked my cell phone and was relieved to see the antenna lit up halfway.  Service was weak, but I would be able to make a call.  There was no point in calling for help at this late hour so I turned off the phone to save its battery.

It must have been two in the morning when the rain stopped.  I was sitting in the chair next to the fire, afraid to risk sitting on the couch again, when the sounds of the storm were reduced to big drops from the roof falling to the over-saturated ground.  Even though the storm had passed, ominous vapors still clung to the house.  It was easy to ignore while staring into the cheery fire, but I felt a growing oppression that prevented me from looking away from the flames.  Then I heard the sound.  

CLANK, CLANK, CLANK.

It sounded like someone using a pickaxe in stony ground.  I tried to ignore it, instead focusing on the relaxing quality of the colorful flames as they licked the logs.  Sighing loudly I tried to exorcise the tension from my body.  I was shocked to hear the sound of my breath completely absorbed as if I was in a coffin.  Laughter echoed in my head as my grip on reality dissolved.  I knew I didn’t believe in haunted houses, but I was becoming less sure of what it was I did believe in.  I knew I had to act.  I needed to derail the freight train of fear that was picking up steam; had to lose the shackles that were slowly binding my soul.  But I couldn’t turn around.  The hope of the fire was the tether that bound me to the truth I had once known.  What was my truth?

CLANK, CLANK, CLANK.

I couldn’t stop my attention from drifting to the sound.  Surely there wasn’t someone digging in the front yard.  I must be imagining it.

CLANK, CLANK, CLANK.

What sort of deviltry did that sound portend? Surely it was a mystery that could not go unanswered.  It had to have a rational, discernable cause.  My heart raced faster despite my mind telling itself there must be a reasonable explanation.  With an exaggerated jolt I leapt up from the chair and turned my back to the fire.  My distorted shadow crept about the room, mocking my resolve.  I forced myself forward, crossing the room in spite of the taunts coming from my own shadow.  I told myself it was the dancing flames that made my shadow act on its own.  The choreography of my distorted, monochrome likeness dissolved and reappeared around the room, an entity or perhaps a part of my psyche that didn’t respond to my will.  Gathering my courage, I moved towards the front door.

I reached for the knob with sweaty palms.  Now I could hear not only the action of the pickaxe, but the sound of shoveling in between.  I opened the door and stared out into the night.  I moved to the edge of the porch and the feathery limit of the feeble light cast by the candles inside.  The noises came from just thirty feet into the darkness that consumed the front yard.  Drunk on fear and curiosity I felt my way down the stairs and inched towards the sound.

“Hello” fell limply from my throat.  No response.  I moved closer.  I could not only hear the sound, but I could feel the shockwave caused by each blow of the pickaxe.  “Hello”.  Nothing.  There must have only been one person digging because there was only shoveling or picking occurring at one time and I could hear the tools being set aside in between.  I couldn’t see a thing.  I moved slowly, not believing there was a hole in the front yard, but not entirely sure.  As I got right next to the source of the sound it suddenly stopped.  Silence as thick as the darkness enveloped me.  I stood there trying to convince myself that I hadn’t really heard anything when the sound of a heavy object being dragged across the ground was followed by a thud and some falling stones.  Then the shoveling resumed accompanied by the sound of the hole being filled in.  I took a step closer and stood in the middle of this phenomenon that only existed to my sense of sound.  How long it was before I heard the patting of earth with the flat of a shovel I will never know.  Then footsteps headed towards the house.  All seemed to go quiet until I heard the front door close.

I stood in the dark looking at the house.  The glow of the fire was inviting, but it wasn’t an invitation I was anxious to accept.  Sleeping in the car was my next thought.  I would have left then if I could have.  The flickering light in the windows was no longer comforting.  The idea of climbing the porch stairs and following the unseen presence that had closed the door was impossible.  I headed towards the car.

I awoke with a stiff neck and a dry film in my mouth.  It hadn’t been easy falling asleep while keeping my eyes and ears peeled.  Sleep had finally come at sunrise.  It was a beautiful sunny morning and the house and yard looked peaceful.  The air in the car was rancid with the smell of fearful perspiration.  I got out and went timidly towards the house.  My bags were still in the foyer.  I had never made it upstairs the night before and I found its décor matched the downstairs.  I put my bags down in the room with the largest bed and found the shower, hoping to wash away the smell of fear.  I made it quick, knowing that without electricity I would only have a few gallons of water.  Lukewarm water sped the process along.

I called the rental agent and told her about the power and the tree across the driveway.  She asked if it had been strange being stuck in the house.  I played brave and told her it had been charming and my hosts had been quite welcoming.  She called me back an hour later and told me the electricity would be on by mid-day, but because of all the damage in the area it would be at least twenty-four hours before the tree could be taken care of.  I thanked her and told her I would be fine.  Then I called a cab to take me into town.  My bags were packed and when the cab arrived I still wasn’t sure if I would get a hotel room or buy some food and try to spend another night in the house.  In the end I decided that the ghosts were obviously busy doing ghost things and would leave me well enough alone.  I chose to spend the night in the house.

The afternoon was pleasant and I felt myself relaxing as the layers of stress peeled away.  After dark I made a simple dinner and sat alone with the five empty chairs and ate.  The power was back on and all the lights downstairs raced to the dark corners of the house.  I finished eating and cleaned up the kitchen.  The window above the sink looked over the backyard and the shadows of the trees danced in the moonlight.  Feeling shallowly courageous, I decided I should have been charged double to stay in a haunted house with a storm and no electricity on the first night and a full moon on the second.

Retiring to the rockers on the porch I broke the silence with a howl at the moon.  Somewhere in the distance I heard some dogs answer my call.  The night was crisp and clear and the knotted darkness of the previous night was replaced by falling, silvery moondust.  The calm after the storm lay heavily on the valley, and the woods were aglow in the moon’s refulgence.  I thought if there was more activity tonight at least darkness wouldn’t be a problem, but I hadn’t considered that an early moonrise meant an early moonset.

I let my mind drift as my consciousness reached for bubbles of thought that burst when touched.  The silence curtsied and bowed as it spun its web around me.  Fickle country scents roamed through my memories like ballerinas on point, kicking up the detritus of my life.  My breaths were slow and deep, like a sailor consuming the first pint of ale ashore after a long voyage.  My body and mind were relaxed, but there was an undertow slowly eroding my peace of mind.  My sight was constantly drawn to the spot in the lawn where the strange action had occurred the night before.  In the soft moonlight I could detect a slight impression in the ground that might indicate some previous digging.  I felt myself attracted to it.  Mixing with my light and airy musings were subterranean images and thoughts.  Colliding in my mind they made for a mental collage of good and evil.

The hours passed unnoticed.  Selena’s lunar manifestation made its way across the sky in a graceful arc.  I watched the shadow trees march across the yard in their nocturnal parade.  Nothing happened.  The longer nothing happened, the more confident I grew something was about to.  Time slowed as I braced myself.  I stockpiled my courage as a commodity I might use to place value on my soul.  It became my single possession as I watched its stock slowly deplete.  As it dwindled, dread consumed my sense of peace the way a black hole devours light.

I had no idea what time it was when the moon set, but the ensuing darkness paralyzed me.  My senses were hair trigger.  They searched so hard in a state of deprivation they created their own stimulus.  My eyes saw movement when there was nothing but the viscous darkness before me.  Strange moaning sounds and the fall of footsteps formed in my brain though no sound reached my ears.  My skin tingled as if touched, yet I was very much alone.  No longer were scents triggering memories, the process had reversed and my thoughts were brewing strong odors which led me to the fruits of fear.  

I didn’t move a muscle.  I could feel the pounding of my heart in my chest as if I’d just run a mile.  I had thoughts of moving, but was afraid to miss the cue that would alert me to run for my life.  My senses were working on such a micro level, I knew any flinch on my part would cause such a commotion it would be deafening.  I wished I could only be as afraid as I’d been the night before.  That was familiar.  Thinking about what else might be in store for me drove me towards madness.  And still nothing happened.  I was ready to implode.  The time passed as if I was a statue.

The pre-dawn quiet was terrifying.  I began to think all life beyond the porch had ceased to exist and I was alone with a few burning light bulbs surrounded by darkness.  I was marooned in the abyss – a solitary soul clinging to the belief of a larger humanity.  I developed a longing for the activity of some haunted specter to suggest the existence of a consciousness other than my own.  The occasional sound made by an animal of the night was a double-edged sword, both comforting and terrifying.  I dove deep into the depths of madness the struck me drunk and blind with terror.  Mummified by fear I would have sold my soul for a quick end to what seemed like an eternity of horror.  And still nothing happened.  

When the sky began to brighten and the blackness around me faded to gray, I found myself exhilarated to be alive.  I sat still, afraid to scare away the light, until the first rays of the sun penetrated the woods around the house.  Like a toddler taking its first steps, my mind made its way back from the land of despair.  The sound of a passing car on the distant road reminded me of the civilization that existed beyond the threshold of the fearsome night.  I laughed at myself.  How had I gotten so worked up?

Shaking off the fear like a deep chill, I stood and stretched my stiff limbs.  It was a beautiful morning and once again I headed to the shower to wash away the putrid smell of fear.  After the shower I climbed into bed and slept past noon.

I knew there was a relationship between the scare I received on the first night and how afraid I had become on the second night, but I couldn’t connect it with a definite quality of the house.  A combination of disbelief and temerity was responsible for my choice to continue my lodgings in this place that was so peaceful by day and terrifying at night.  I reasoned that if the house was haunted, its pain was none of my doing and therefore I had little to fear.  Surely if I could conquer my fear I could own this piece of ground for a song.  The enthusiasm that grew in the daylight was bolstered by the thought of perhaps purchasing this house, which would be far beyond my financial ability under normal circumstances.  This excitement perfectly balanced the nighttime dread.  

After a delightful day I steeled myself for the oncoming night.  The moon was past full but it still shone brightly in the sky.  As I rocked on the porch, the stillness was palpable as night descended on the valley.  I kept repeating the idea that the spirits dwelling in the house had nothing to do with me.  As I rocked the hanging chair began to swing.

I braced myself as my first response was to run.  Calming my mind I casually accepted the truth of the swinging chair.  Emotional images began to form in my head.  I felt the presence of two beings with me on the porch.  One was filled with longing and reconciliation and the other was consumed by dark thoughts of anger.  Something triggered me to remember a scene from a movie about a lover’s quarrel.  Though I couldn’t see the actors, I knew some drama was replaying itself next to me.

The night was cooler than the nights before and I was catching a chill and considered going inside.  I didn’t want to leave as I sensed I was there to be audience to the unfolding scene.  Then the swinging chair jerked and its smooth motion was disrupted as if one of the parties had gotten up.  I heard footsteps and watched as the door opened on its own and stood ajar.  I got up and stepped through the entrance and the door closed behind me.  The footsteps padded lightly up the stairs and I followed behind.  They led to the room where I slept.  I brushed my teeth and prepared to turn in for the night.  I hadn’t slept in days and was exhausted.  Amazed at my lack of fear of the very thing that had terrorized me on my first two nights in the house, I climbed into bed.  For some reason going to sleep in a room inhabited by a ghost didn’t scare me.  As I fell into a deep, easy slumber I heard crashing around in the front yard as if someone, or something, was attempting to vent some serious anger.

Sometime in the night I was startled into a half-awake state and sat up in bed.  On the opposite wall hung a triptych I hadn’t noticed before.  It was a landscape that appeared to blend abstractionism and realism.  The left panel was two frothing rivers which joined as they flowed to the right.  The light of the moon gave the currents of the rivers a pale, fleshy tone.  The center panel utilized the same palette and looked to be a rural winter scene.  On the left was a small patch of woods surrounded by fields leading up to snow covered hills.  The right panel was the most abstract and had deep reds and blush tones cloistered by masses of black set on a gray background.  In the light part of the foreground were two almond shapes lined up vertically that drew my attention.  

My tired eyes blurred and as I blinked I saw a flash of movement.  When my eyes cleared I saw that where the center and right panels joined there was a drip.  A pool had already collected on the floor and I could see it was blood.  As I looked back at the picture my eyes locked on the almond shapes and I realized they were eyes, filled with terror.  Once I recognized the eyes I realized the triptych was of a woman lying on her side facing me.  The rivers were her legs, which joined at the forest, the hills were her breasts, and the black was her hair.  The blood came from her neck.  All of a sudden I was afraid.  Very afraid.

The last of the moonlight was filtering into the room as the woman stepped out of the frame and came towards me.  Terror seized me and I felt the strange urge to hide under the blankets in hopes the apparition would go away.  As the woman came near the terror in her eyes changed to pleading as she reached out her hand.  It was obvious she wanted to lead me somewhere.  She was half translucent and the blood flowed down her chest and ran to the floor.  The sight was devastatingly scary and with all my reasoning I was finally convinced that ghosts exist.  I was remiss to follow her, but felt I had little choice.

I followed her down the stairs and out through the front door.  The moon had set and the last of its light was fading as she led me to the slight depression in the lawn where I had heard the digging.  It was almost completely dark now but she was still easy to see as if light was emanating from inside of her.  She turned to face me.  Her expression looked meaningful and I knew she was making a request.  As she peered into my eyes something startled and she turned to the left.  I watched terror return to her face.  As she faded into darkness I saw another image coming towards her.  It was a grisly mountain of a man covered in blood holding a large knife.  Then there was nothing.

My fear was gone now and I was left with curiosity.  What had she been trying to tell me? What should I do now? There wasn’t much to do in the middle of the night, so I went back to bed.  The triptych looked like a three paneled landscape again.  I squinted my eyes trying to see the woman without success.  After the adrenaline wore off I fell asleep and slept until the sun was high.

As I had breakfast I pondered what to do next.  I considered forgetting the whole thing, but my curiosity wouldn’t let go.  I decided to drive to the local library to do some research.

-Hi, I’d like some information on the old Barnhart residence.

-You don’t’ look like a priest.

-Why would you think I am a priest?

-The only people interested in that old house are priests and so-called journalists from those sensational newspapers that write about UFOs and stuff.

-Why priests?

-I guess they want to cut their teeth for careers as exorcists.  Why are you interested?

-I’m staying there and I…

-You’re staying there?

-Yes, I’ve been there the last three nights and I…

-Three nights!

Her face was full of surprise and awe.  She looked at me as if I was a ghost.

-I have never heard of anyone staying there for more than a few hours.  Didn’t you see the…

-Ghosts!

I emphasized the word with a little jump in her direction, and she just about left her skin.

– No.  Unless of course you count the invisible grave digger and the lady with the slit in the throat.  Oh, and the big scary guy with a knife.  Otherwise it was pretty quiet.  Do you know anything about the house?

Now she looked terrified and stammered out that she would get the file.  She handed me a manila folder and didn’t say anything more.  In the folder were some faded reproductions of daguerreotypes showing a couple at a wedding, an announcement from the local paper about children born to the couple, and an article entitled ‘The Barnhart Affair’.

The article read:

What happened to the Barnharts? Sylvia disappeared over six months ago and all attempts to track her down have been futile.  Even though she was routinely mistreated by her husband, she was a devoted wife and loving mother.  The last she was seen had been at her sister’s house when she showed up with bruises on her face and body.  The sister reports that Sylvia had complained to her husband about his drinking and adultery and he had responded violently.  Surprisingly Sylvia returned home going to smooth things out with her husband.  She was never seen again.

Jonathan Barnhart seemed to fall into despair with the disappearance of his wife.  He has not been seen in weeks and the farm is disarray.  His family has taken the livestock to their farm for care.  Their daughters who live in Boston were shocked by the news.  

A short article from a year later stated:

The Barnhart farm is still empty.  The daughters got spooked when they visited to retrieve some personal items and left empty-handed.  Others who visit the property have reported strange occurrences.

The story went on to give some first hand accounts of these strange occurrences.  It seemed clear now what had happened.  How he had not become a suspect is a mystery, but clearly Jonathan had killed his wife.  The faded pictures had alikeness to the ghosts I had seen, and were beyond a doubt the Barnharts.  He had killed her and buried her in what was probably the garden.  That explained her, but what about him? If what is said about ghosts being stuck in the in-between is true, he must have also died in a way that didn’t allow him to rest in peace.  I returned the folder to the librarian.

-They say it’s the ghosts of all the Barnhart’s buried in their cemetery.

-Where would that be?

-Back behind the house.  The farmer next door mows the lawn, but says the graveyard gives him the creeps so he won’t go back there.

-Well thanks for your time.

-You spending another night there?

-Yes.

-You don’t look that dumb.

-Thanks for the compliment, have a nice day.

Driving back to the house things started adding up for me.  I understood that the pleading in Sylvia’s eyes was for a proper burial.  I had been to enough funerals to know the right things to say.  Having been a little lazy lately I didn’t mind getting some exercise digging up her bones and digging a grave in the graveyard.  Before I started, I scouted the graveyard and found that there were headstones for both Sylvia and Jonathan Barnhart in the graveyard.  They had birthdates, but were missing the dates of their deaths.  It made it easier, not having to decide where to bury her or to worry about a gravestone.  Of course, I couldn’t chisel the necessary dates into the stones, but I hoped it was a formality she would overlook.  

As I dug up the front yard I kept thinking about what might have happened to Jonathan.  Perhaps Sylvia had haunted her husband and drove him to suicide.  The problem with this scenario was no body had been found.  Surely he couldn’t have disposed of his own body after his death.  Or could he? With that thought on my mind, my eyes came to rest on the well.  Somehow I knew Jonathan Barnhart was in the well.  

The soil was easy to dig and by late in the day I had Sylvia’s bones resting in her new grave with a bunch of wildflowers propped up on her gravestone.  Her husband would have to wait until the morrow.  The night was uneventful and I slept soundly after all the hard work.  In the morning I rigged a contraption to fish for bones in the well.  It turned out easier than I had anticipated.  The water table must have dropped because the well was dry.  With the beam of the flashlight, for which I had bought fresh batteries, I could easily see a pile of bones at the bottom of the well.  In a little over an hour I had retrieved all the bones that were visible.  My hands were blistered from the day before, but I tore into my work with vigor.  By the early afternoon I was conducting my second impromptu funeral in the Barnhart graveyard.

The rest of my stay was quiet, with only one more occurrence.  In the middle of the night, on my last night, I heard the sound of hammering coming from the graveyard.  In the morning I discovered that the appropriate dates had been chiseled into the stones for both parties.

When I got back to the city I made an anonymous offer for the property through a lawyer.  My very low bid was quickly accepted and I have lived there ever since, in peace.