The Haint of Ferny Creek – Part 1

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Gini Cooper was gracious enough to kick off our collective ghost story with this hair-raising first chapter. She blogs at Inklings.

I hadn’t been around long enough to hear the stories, but I wouldn’t have believed them even if I had. It’s not that I’m not open-minded. I believe in ghosts, more or less. Don’t really know what they are, but there’s just too many stories by plausible witnesses to disbelieve. But an invisible monster that kills people “ that pushes the limits of even my credibility. No, I’d have laughed if I’d heard the stories first.

As it was, I hadn’t heard the stories nor did I know about that house back then. It all started for me on a dark and snowy night. It was before I learned to watch the weather and anyway, I was too busy enjoying the company of the friends I was visiting to notice that it had started snowing. When it was time to leave it was a few inches deep, but that was nothing compared to Maine or Vermont where I’d lived previously. Their drive passed through Ferny Creek and that’s where my car got stuck. Since I didn’t have to work the next day, it made more sense to just stay the night than try to get the car unstuck in the dark.

I slept in the front parlor on a day bed, a room that was rarely used but seemed cozy enough and warm. Back then I could drop off to sleep in a minute and wasn’t too particular about sleeping in strange places. So I was as relaxed as can be when I fell asleep. Sometime in the middle of the night though, I awoke to find a heavy weight on my chest and strong hands around my neck choking me. I tried to lift my arms to push whoever it was off of me, but I found to my horror that I couldn’t move at all. It was harder and harder to breathe and I began to panic, struggling to scream and straining every muscle to try move so I could fight off my attacker. One part of my mind was trying to grasp the fact that I was going to die, but some survival instinct fueled another voice that kept telling me not to panic and to think of something. The only thing I could come up with was to play dead and stop the futile struggling. My other mantra was it’s just a dream, it’s not real. Only it hurt like it was real. Finally just as I thought I’d lose consciousness, I felt the weight lift and the hands leave my throat. I could breathe again. A brief moment of relief … then I remembered the dream and felt another wave of fear and horror wash over me. I could move, but didn’t; afraid that my attacker would return, afraid that the dream might have been real. The image was all too clear: that room, daylight but dim as if before a storm or at dusk. The walls were covered with blood and I knew that everyone in the house but me was dead, butchered by the murderer who was outside looking to cut the phone line before returning to kill me. The fear of that dream was overwhelming and I shivered in the bed, straining my eyes to see if anything was in the room with me. It was deathly quiet with the hush of new snow. But I couldn’t go back to sleep for fear of what would happen. It was just a dream, just hypnogogic sleep, not real, I kept trying to convince myself. Yet the fear was real and my neck ached from the pressure of something.

It wasn’t till I heard steps on the stairs and saw the outline of three people coming down and going down the hall to the kitchen that I could finally fall asleep, feeling safe that my friends were up and about. I heard the clatter of pots and pans from the kitchen as sleep took over. I didn’t wake till broad daylight. As I walked into the kitchen, where my friends were cooking up some breakfast and their son chattering away, the terrors of the night seemed silly. I laughingly told them about the horrible dream and the sensation of being choked and they agreed it made for a great story. But when I told them of my relief upon seeing them head to the kitchen in the dark, they said that they had only just awakened. It was already light when they got to the kitchen. I had to will myself to breathe when I heard that and felt the chill of fear creep up my spine. What exactly was it that I saw? I really wanted to believe it was all a dream. All but the bruises on my neck.

Needless to say, I never returned to that house. A few years later I met someone who had lived there before my friends, and she told me a story about being pushed down the front steps and breaking her ankle. No one else was at home when it happened … and she felt hands on her back. She didn’t believe in ghosts and figured we both had overly active imaginations. I really wanted to believe that and for years had put the whole thing out of my mind. And then I heard the stories about the haint.

It seems that the locals tell a tale about an invisible monster that goes around choking people to death. (How anyone knew it was invisible stymied me since those who crossed paths with it ended up dead.) I didn’t pay much attention until I heard the part about it being in the Ferny Creek area. I felt hackles rise up at that and suddenly was all ears. People started showing up dead, young, old, didn’t matter. The only common thread in all the cases was that they had been strangled to death. Some were in locked houses that showed no signs of entry or exit. Over the years, the area where deaths occurred narrowed until they were limited to just one house. After several deaths in that house, there was talk of razing it, but it didn’t happen. After it stopped being rented out, there were no more deaths and people forgot about the tale except around Halloween. So of course when I finally heard the story, I got to wondering if it could possibly be the same house where I had my experience.And from all the facts that I could gather, it was.

Aside from being thoroughly creeped out and vaguely grateful to be alive, I’d hoped to be able to put this story in a closet and throw away the key. For years that’s what I’ve done. The house has been empty for some time and the mysterious deaths have stopped. Then just recently I heard that someone from out of town had bought the place and is living there. And weird things started happening again. The owner has become reclusive and some bizarre manikins suddenly appeared on the property. Neighbors report having terrifying nightmares and the most recent death was in that area “ by strangulation. I think the haint has returned.

Stay tuned for the next installment on Wednesday!

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