Tag Archives: ghosts

Ghost Story, October 9, 2018

So here’s my ghost story.

Y’all, grad school is…an experience, to be sure. Some classes are ridiculously easy…like, to the point I’m suspicious of it…and others are crushingly, crushingly difficult (to the point that the term “identity moratorium” is taking on an unexpectedly personal meaning).

There have been…a lot of late nights. Memorizing, conceptualizing, possibly overdosing on caffeine but being too preoccupied to notice the physiological symptoms. I live on campus, and between the hours of midnight and two a.m. you’re likely to find me downstairs in my building’s common room, hunched over a laptop and occasionally typing notes in Google Docs.

Anyhow, a couple weeks back, just as the fall air was beginning to blow cold here in Tennessee, I was downstairs at around one in the morning, wrapped up in a hoodie and flannel pajamas. I was absorbed in the differential diagnoses for schizophreniform disorder, and I as I busily made flash cards I nearly jumped out of my chair as someone pounded on the window about a foot to my right.

The blinds were closed, slanted downward, so whoever was outside likely couldn’t see me. But I could see their form well enough. I saw them hover for a minute, then walk over to the other window, pause, and walk back over to the window by me. I expected someone to call out asking that I let them in – which, hell with that, I ain’t looking to get robbed – and then they walked off. A moment later I heard the double doors rattle, as though someone was trying to shake them open. Then the figure passed my window again, paused, and walked off.

Again the doors rattled.

I got spooked, gathered my things, and made my way upstairs. Before leaving I turned my head as the doors stopped rattling. I couldn’t see anyone who might have been outside.

The next day as I made my way to and from class, I passed the front desk on the way to my room. I heard a resident talking about the portrait of the elderly lady in the lobby – our building’s namesake – and how when she dozed off on the sofa she had been surprised by how the painting seemed to be staring at her.

“Yeah,” the desk clerk said, “people say they get unnerved by that painting.

“So funny,” the woman said. “I mean what’s a painting really gonna do, right?”

“I dunno,” I heard the clerk say before I made my way up the stairs, “People say the doors shake sometimes…”

Maybe I was being inhospitable. But if so, I think I’m comfortable with that.


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October 4, 2018

So here’s my ghost story.

Somehow I’d managed to avoid tornadoes until I moved to Nashville. I didn’t realize they sounded like revving diesel engines until I woke up one night thinking some asshole was was trying to flex outside my apartment. It wasn’t till I took a look out the window that I could see the neighbor’s plastic porch chairs tumbling across the parking lot.

Some December, a few days before Christmas, the weather had been unseasonably hot and humid all day. Sure, it gets hot and stays hot here in the south, and humidity is just a fact of life down here, but this was springtime weather conditions in the depth of winter. Air pressure had been threatening to bottom out all day, and a constant, steady breeze stirred quietly enough to let everyone know things were going to get loud sooner rather than later.

The weather forecast told us that things likely wouldn’t get too heavy until a little after six, and after spending my day at the kitchen table wrapping gifts I (stupidly, I know) put on my Asics and left for a run.

Something I find really unique about the Nashville area is the surprising number of random graves you find as you go about your business. I’m not talkin’ fresh graves, mind you, dug by some brazen mafioso; hundreds of old graves, dug by settlers, dot the surrounding countryside. You see them all over, but half the time you don’t even realize it; often I would be caught by surprise upon finding out that what I assumed was a nondescript rock was actually an engraved and weathered tombstone. It’s not very unusual in the more rural areas to see a neighborhood stop sign casually erected beside an antebellum grave marker.

So as I ran I noticed the wind picking up, substantially. It was well past sunset, but the sky was almost a glowing purple color. I could feel the air pressure dropping as time ticked by, and I knew I needed to head back as quickly as I could manage. I crossed the street, to a side less dense with overhanging tree branches, and made my way back up the mountain road that led to my apartment.

I was coming up on a pile of rocks, a marker I would usually rely on when coming home from work to let me know the turn to my driveway was coming up. Beside them there was a woman with a gray shawl wrapped around her. Strangely the shawl didn’t seem affected by the wind. She seemed to be looking past me down the road, and I could hear what sounded like the rumble of an engine. By that time, I knew that twisters sounded like revving engines.

I looked over my shoulder, my blood running cold as I did, but luckily it really was an engine I heard. She’d just been waiting to cross the road. The truck passed me by, and while my heart slowed back down to normal I noticed that the lady ahead of me was gone. Probably crossed already.

I slowed as I passed the rocks. Growing nearer, I could see that something was carved into it. Erosion had eaten too much away to make any sense of it, but I could definitely make out numbers. “1846-1868”

For whatever reason I felt compelled to look over my shoulder, and when I did I saw the lady with the shawl again, for just a moment. Then my attention was pulled away by another engine sound – another pickup – and when I looked back, she was gone to…wherever she was heading.

The tornado came about half an hour later, whipping sideways rain across the hillside and rocking cars on their suspension. When things began to quiet down I risked a look through the window, and for an instant I thought I saw a figure in a gray shawl, standing oddly still in the violent storm. But I must have been seeing things, because when I blinked she was gone.

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October 2, 2018

So here’s my ghost story.

Growing up in the country, my granddad and his twin brother Roy saw their fair share of wildlife. They grew up with two other brothers and two sisters, with a widowed mother who was kind and gentle in her tone of voice despite the grueling labor that came with Depression-era subsistence farming. There were plenty of long hot days when the family would built heavy, sturdy fences to keep the few animals they owned safe from the creatures that roamed the pinewoods around their homestead.

One night when my grandad was fourteen, there was a great big scream from outside, and as he told it, he and Roy were they first ones outside, both of them in their underwear, my granddad holding his daddy’s gun and Roy fumbling with a box of bullets, They got a few rounds loaded as they ran around, trying to figure out what was going on. Their mama hollered at them to be careful while she threw on a housecoat. The littler kids stayed inside.

Eventually Granddad and Uncle Roy found a section of the heavy wooden gate that had been completely knocked down, and inside was a wounded goat, jerking around but clearly dying from a nasty bite to the neck. Granddad shot the poor thing and noticed one of its horns had broken off.

The goat was buried out of fear of rabies, and it was a significant loss for such a little farm. The gate was fixed and the two boys took turns for a couple weeks staying up late with the rifle, watching the animals. One night, while prowling around the treeline, Uncle Roy called out to Granddad, and when he met up with him he showed him the carcass of a wild pig, a broken goat horn stuck in its belly. Boars were mean, but Granddad had never thought one would could ever get that mean. They buried the pig, too, just in case.

Granddaddy was quick to dismiss this next part as “horse piss” but Uncle Roy often claimed he would still hear those animals around the property, usually late at night or in the wee hours of the morning. He would hear a screaming goat and a screaming pig, but the animals would be as calm as could be when he would check on them, like they didn’t hear a thing. He said sometimes he could even see dust getting kicked up like there was a scuffle going on, even though there weren’t any animals moving nearby. Granddad didn’t believe a word of it, and would always respond with a disdainful “Aw, come on” whenever Uncle Roy would share his story with the kids.

When Uncle Roy passed he left the house to Granddad. All his kids lived several states away and had no use for it, and Roy’s wife Ruth could comfortably live off her own pension as well as the widow’s benefits from Roy’s. Plus, she was moving into an apartment in a retirement community, and wanted nothing to do with the hassle of selling the property. So it fell to Granddad.

Granddad was always an active man, but by his mid-eighties the two-and-a-half hour drive to the old homestead was a little much, and he asked me to head out one weekend to make sure the house was cleared out and ready for sale. Roy had lived where the old family home had been, but by the early fifties he’d torn down the old house his father had put together and replaced it with a one-story brick home. Most of the farmland had been sold off as lots, so only a half acre remained in the family name. What had once been countryside was now a quaint but populated neighborhood.

So one Saturday afternoon I drove out. Movers had already cleared everything, and whatever Ruth didn’t want she’d either given away or stuck out by the road. I couldn’t see anything that had been left behind, and there was nothing major that was wrong with the place. I took some pictures in case a realtor wanted to see them or something, then spent about ten minutes taking apart a bookshelf I thought I could use in my apartment. This was November, just after Thanksgiving, and by the time I had the pieces in my trunk the sun had gone down. I locked the place up and made my way back to my car. It was silent and cold and dark, and I immediately froze when a scream filled the air. And then another, and then something guttural and angry answering it.

I don’t really know what I heard or where I heard it, because while the area was now a neighborhood it was still plenty country, and there were plenty of wild animals just outside the light of the lone streetlamp. But I thought I could hear shuffling stomps, like maybe the kind made by hooves. And when I jumped into my car and backed out into the street, I thought maybe I saw some dust kicked up from the yard.

But it was dark, and like I said, I don’t really know what I heard.

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October 1, 2018

So here’s my ghost story.

My family owns a house and some property out in Alabama. It’s an old place, not some cabin in the mountains or a cottage by the Gulf. It’s a farmhouse, built by hand by poor people who ate what they grew, and spent little because there wasn’t really anything to spend. The house is almost a century old. My great-grandmother raised nine kids and outlived two husbands there. What she couldn’t afford to buy, she often made by hand. Despite the hard work her life entailed she often dressed in a long white dress and wore a white straw hat. Even in her final years she enjoyed sitting in the sun beside her extensive garden, shelling peas while bees buzzed about the flowers by her hem. When she passed in the mid-seventies my grandmother dreamed about seeing her sitting outside, brilliant and white, until her mother stood without a word and walked around the corner of the house. My grandmother said she woke up calling after her, and could swear she saw her mother’s white frame pass by in the hall as she sat up. But of course her mother wasn’t there.

Our family reunions are held here, and my pops is usually one of the main organizers. Ours is a sprawling, country clan, and a little over four hundred people usually show up. It’s…a lot of work, and my parents usually arrive days early to prepare, with my sister and I in tow. Nowadays she and I do most of the grunt work, setting the time and hauling the necessary furniture from various churches, but back then we pretty much just loafed around while they adults did everything.

When I was about sixteen I was chilling in the bedroom I normally slept in when we stayed there. I was reading on the bed when my sister popped her head in to tell me our folks wanted us to drive some tables over from our uncle’s church. She then asked if I needed to use the bathroom, cuz she was gonna use the shower, and I told her no and thanked her. She closed the door as she left.

A couple minutes later I heard the doorknob turn. I didn’t think anything of it because most of the towels are stuffed in one of the closets in the room I tend to claim – I figured it was my sister grabbing one before heading down the hall. But then the knob turned again. And again. And then it started rattling. Which was weird, because the lock for that door had been broken longer than I’d been alive.

“It’s open,” I called out, and then the rattling stopped. I waited a beat, then shrugged and kept reading.

A half hour later I stepped into the kitchen to get some water, and I passed my sister.

“Hey, is everybody gone now?” she asked me.

“Who?” I figured she meant our parents, who had left hours ago to visit some cousins at their farm across the county. “Yeah, they’ve been gone since five. Why?”

My sister looked down the hall. “Anyone else come by?” Relatives often stopped by to say hey before the reunion proper, but no one had shown up that evening. I would have seen them coming up through the big bay window by my bed, and I told her as much.

“So who was that lady?” she asked.

“What lady?”

“The one I saw thirty minutes ago in the hall. The one in the white dress, with the hat.”

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Old Woman

scary old woman


The scraps of paper lying about the kitchen fill two entire boxes when I’ve finally gotten them all together. Recipes, announcements, baseball schedules, odd articles she found interesting. Small slivers of paper that, taken together, ultimately come to little more than a bulky, disintegrating mess. I figure I’ll cut down on the inevitable junk pile and just feed this to the fire pit tonight.

Grandma, like most of her generation, accumulated kitsch, seemingly wholesale. An entire wall of glass shelves is packed to the brim in heavily glossed ceramic figures, all in soft pastel tones of pink and blue. Tea sets, figures of children in prayer, images of squirrels and skunks and cats and dogs. In the center of the middle shelf, nearly lost to the crowd, is a picture of Grandpa, tucked in an old clam shell frame. Right beside, the old people on their honeymoon, back when they and the world were young.

I drag the boxes of old paper to the side, and begin the process of photographing the collection for sale. Maybe somewhere there are still those who’ll love these things the way Grandma did.

Every few minutes, a figurine I put back on the shelf flies off and thumps against the thin carpet. None of them break, and there’s a small pull whenever I pick them back up.


Photographing the collection takes a couple hours, and while the pictures load to my cloud drive I sit down on the thinning wraparound sofa with a beer. I drink too much, so of course I’ve added a shot or two of Evan Williams to it. I turn on the heavy TV, a set from the days when TVs were made to look like furniture. It has a remote, the kind where the buttons click when you press them. I watch a flickering anchorwoman as she updates me on the local high school football teams.

The boilermaker makes me sleepy. I doze off for a few minutes. When I wake up, the anchorwoman’s hair has gone white, and she’s screaming through the screen. It takes me a moment to blink myself back to consciousness, and when I do she’s smiling again, her hair dark, her voice low and pleasant.


I power my way through boxing up Grandma’s mammoth collection of trashy paperback romances, wondering to myself how many of them Goodwill will actually take. I reinforce each box with duct tape so they won’t collapse as I lug them to my car. When that’s done I drag a folding chair from the garage to the back yard, and lug out the boxes full of old recipes and newspaper clippings. I drop some logs into the fire pit and splash them with kerosene, then go back in to get my bourbon.

I drink straight from the bottle and light a cigarette, throwing the match to the logs to get the fire going. There’s a burst of light that seems to illuminate someone moving near the fence, but when I squint and shield my eyes from the flames, I can’t make out anything but shrubbery.

I get drunk. I light smokes with burning twigs because I can’t bring myself to use anymore matches. I feed the fire with handfuls of old paper. Glowing ash flits through the air as they burn. Sometimes they almost seem like eyes.


I nod off halfway through the first box. Only for a moment, but catnaps always make me feel like I’ve been out for hours.

I take a deep breath. The cold December air shocks my lungs, and the rest of my body jolts awake. The fire is out, leaving a lump of glowing embers in the pit. I toss a few handfuls of paper in, weigh them down with another two logs. I think about splashing some liquor in before I remember the booze isn’t actually alcoholic enough to ignite. I take another swig and doze back off.

I dream that Jenn is across the fire from me, her olive skin orange in the light, her black curls wafting from the heat. She’s smiling, like she always does. She’s wearing a red checkered shirt.

She’s also beside me, saying something I can’t make out. I feel her lean in and kiss the corner of my mouth, then slide her tongue out longways so that it parts my lips. I turn my face and kiss her back, deeply, sucking on her wet tongue.

The other Jenn continues to stare at us, grinning. I look back to her, and now I can see her teeth are being eaten away. I can see it in detail, despite the distance. Her grin never fades, but I watch as the edges of her teeth bubble and shrink. Faint wisps of steam seem to waft from her mouth. I can hear the sizzle of the dentin over the crackle of the fire.

The other Jenn is still kissing me, still ramming her tongue into my mouth. This one is also wearing a red checkered shirt. What if the one across the fire tries to take her place? How would I know she’d done it?

The other Jenn’s teeth wear away into ragged sawing fangs before I wake up.

My phone is chirping. Text from Jenn: “miss u”

I text her back: “miss u 2. thinking of u”

I decide it’s time to call it a night. I got too late a start on everything today. Still have most of the weekend ahead of me to get this done with.

I fill a couple lemonade carafes with water and douse the embers. Before the water hits I think I see the same gray face I saw on the TV, mouth open, lips curled back over ragged teeth. I can’t tell if she screams at me or if I’m just hearing the squawk of the steam.


I stretch out across the old couch, and around one in the morning I wake up with dry mouth. I pour a glass of water and drink it in one standing, then shuffle to the toilet to piss and brush my teeth.

I wash my hands and splash water on my face, then make my way to the porch for a smoke before going back to sleep. On my way to the back patio I hear a hard tapping at the bay windows. Fuckin’ woodpeckers.

I yank up the blinds and rear back to pound on the glass, but stop when I see the old woman again. Hair white and wild, face gray. Wrinkled mouth curled in anger. Both hands are against the glass, and she’s snarling at me. I can see the glass fog against her open mouth. Her teeth are small and lined in black.

“Grandma?” I ask.

I feel like falling, but somehow I stay on my feet. Maybe I’m too scared even for minimal movement. Eventually the hand I’ve drawn back smacks against the window. The old woman snarls at the sound and snaps at me.

The palm of my hand is pink, and darker in the center where she’d burn me when I misbehaved. She never used those matches for anything else. She never even used that fire pit Grandpa dug her. She always kept the match to me till it burned out on its own.

I take out a cigarette and use my Bic lighter this time to light it. I stare at the snarling thing on the other side of the glass.

“Move, old woman,” I tell her ten minutes later. “I got work to do.”

She stays another few minutes, a growling, hateful pile of ash, before the window is once again dark. I drop the shades and finish my smoke by the sink. I decide I don’t want to sleep on the couch anymore.

I walk down the hall to the back bedroom, and when I open the door an old man is lying on the bed in his boxers. He’s wringing his hands and staring at me in terror. Or maybe staring past me. He seems to be craning his neck to look…behind me. He’s almost solid, but I can see the faint pattern of the bedspread through him.

Well, couch it is, I guess. I’m too tired to put up much more of a fight.

“Alright, old man, you can stay put.” Grandpa flickers a bit at my words. “I’ll deal with you in the morning.”

His wide-eyed fear stays plastered to his face as I close the door. I sleep in the kitchen with the stove light on. The linoleum feels cool against my heated skin.

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New Halloween Twitter Serial: #theywontdie

About three years ago I began running serialized fiction on Twitter, telling my stories one tweet at a time. It was moderately popular, and for about a year I ran a new one each month, some with holiday themes, some without.

It’s been a minute since I was last on Twitter for any significant period of time. Life has been kinda hectic lately, but I’ve begun to realize that life is always kinda hectic. You can’t wait for calm to get creative. You have to get creative to spite the chaos.

So beginning today, I’ll be tweeting a new serial: #theywontdie, from my Twitter handle @TweetTheHorror. Graveyards are places for the dead, but that doesn’t mean the dead are there alone…

Keep them company here: #theywontdie.

Here I sit before my kingdom. Here I am the steward of this land and its decay.

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Fear and Feeling


Recently I learned that there is a secret room in the basement of the building I work in. Though this will sound like absolute bullshit, the room is dark, covered in fading wallpaper, and is filled with broken dolls and torn teddy bears. And, naturally, some of those items are nailed to the wall.

There’s also a sink and bathroom that has seen recent and regular use. I’m not always a nice person, so I made sure to tell all of this to the girl who replaced me for the evening shift before I left. She’s told me before that she’s heard humming and moving below the floor, and this new tidbit of info caused her to give me a petrified look before I almost literally skipped out the door.

We love scary stories because they take our fears and transplant them outside the realm of everyday occurrence. We feel scared when we think we’re alone with a ghost. We are terrified when a human being comes at us with a knife. The things monsters might do lie in imagined, ethereal possibility, but we see our own actions every day.

As a teenager, I loved sneaking into cemeteries late at night. The local graveyard is huge, and I could burn hours just wandering around. I remember a scary moment as I sat beneath a tree, beside an old tomb that had been broken open long ago by falling branches. There was heat lightning in the sky, and something seemed to be scratching and muttering from inside the concrete hole. I was spooked, but I did not literally hide the way I did when I thought I heard living human voices, trailing along a set of railroad tracks, laughing and growing nearer…

There’s a psychiatric hospital in a nearby town that is largely closed down. I used to sneak into the larger buildings with an old girlfriend. We dropped dry ice in mildewed bathtubs filled with water, we looked through old x-rays, we studied forgotten maps leading to patients’ graves outside. Most of those graves seemed to be unmarked. Friends of ours loved to spin stories about ghosts still wandering the collapsing halls, and old patients who still lived in tunnels beneath the hospital grounds.

We need ghosts and monsters because metaphor absolves us of the sin of oversight. We thrill to scary urban legends about serial killers, because otherwise we would be left to sympathize with the old man muttering to himself in the cold. We tell stories of voodoo queens, because it hurts us less to fear an old woman who sleeps outside than it would to feel for her. We ask each other if we believe in ghosts, when our own indulgence compels us to never notice them.


Images taken from “Abandoned: A Look Inside Central State Hospital of Milledgeville, Georgia,” by Monica Waller. Follow this link to purchase her work.

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