In the mid-70’s as a kid I lived about 30 miles southeast of Seattle. In those days the little town I lived in was considered the boondocks or living in the sticks. There is some truth to that since we lived in the foothills of the Cascade Range and deer, cougar, and black bears showing up in your backyard did happen on occasion, not something you would see in downtown Seattle even back then. I could walk to most of my friend’s houses in the neighborhood through thick stands of Douglass Firs, Cedars, and Pine Trees.
There were a surprising number of abandoned houses and buildings hidden in the woods. One of our favorite pastimes in those days was finding and exploring these crumbling ruins. Many of them stand out in my mind. Across the street from Lake Wilderness there used to be an abandoned golf course that I think before that might have been a farm. There were three old mansions all built in the late 19th century. One of them burned down in 1978, possibly due to someone cooking up heroin inside one of the dry and musty old rooms and the other two were victims of soaring property values in the 80’s that led to them being torn down and replaced a subdivision of expensive with McHouses.
But the one that really stands out was this old 4 bedroom rambler that was probably built in the 40’s or 50’s. It was really gone. The backside of it had apparently burned down, but the front part was mostly intact despite a huge mass of black berry bushes that were slowly crushing the walls and roof. My older brother, me, and three friends followed a narrow trail about half a mile into the woods. It might have been a primitive driveway at one time, but when we discovered it the overgrowth was so thick that you could barely pilot a bicycle through it. The front door had been kicked in, possibly by firemen that may have put out the fire in the back room. Inside, it was similar to all the other old houses, strewn with debris from previous occupants, human and animal, musty smelling, dark due to the lack of lighting, and somewhat ominous.
Whenever we entered these types of old houses with one of our older siblings there was usually a pattern to our adventure. On this day my teenage brother who was probably high at the time didn’t disappoint. On the walk to the house he had been prepping us eight year old’s with tales of haunted houses, ghosts, and evil spirits mostly borrowed liberally from then popular horror films like The Shining, The Amityville Horror, and The Exorcist. Once inside my brother made sure to strategically place himself behind my friends and I. Then he dared, taunted, and goaded us to journey deeper into the scary old house. About five creaky steps in my friend Krissa, the brave one in our group, turned slowly left into the kitchen.
There sitting in the dusty kitchen with its faded lime green linoleum floor sat a “red rum” colored rotatory phone on top of a blond wooden stool and nothing else. Ten feet in front of me sat my destiny, life or death, heaven or hell.
My fertile young introverted writer’s brain decided that the phone was haunted and if you answered it an evil ghost would be on the other end. My brother, sensing the mood let out a demonic sounding cackle that emptied the house in about three seconds flat.
I’ve hated Alexander Graham Bell ever since.
About the Creator
Steve Howard's self-published collection of short stories Satori in the Slip Stream, Something Gaijin This Way Comes, and others were released in 2018. His poetry collection Diet of a Piss Poor Poet was released in 2019.