When I was a boy growing up in the North End of Toledo, Ohio, I had a neighbor named Jake. He was a colorful character who got along well with other people as long as he did not have to work with them. So Jake was self-employed.
Jake was a stocky guy, built like a tank, and he could fix anything. Give him a roll of duct tape and a hammer and he could build you anything you could imagine…or so it seemed. He was always around when I needed help fixing my bike.
Jake used to buy old cars and fix them up and sell them. Sometimes he would get a rust-bucket for a few hundred dollars, fix the dents, add a coat of paint, supe-up the engine and sell it for a few thousand dollars. He also bought old houses and fixed them up. Today they call it ‘flipping a house.’ Jake told me about a house that he once bought that he thought was haunted.
He said: "It was an old farm house on the edge of town. It looked like it had been abandoned for years. The windows were broken out. There were holes in the floor and holes in the roof. I got it for a song.
"After I signed the papers the realtor told me it was haunted. I laughed. I did not believe in ghosts. When I went to the hardware store to buy some lumber and drywall, paint and roofing, I told the hardware guy about the house. He turned pale white and stammered, "You did-did not b-buy that house did-did you? It, its haunted. Something t-t-terrible happened there m-many years ago."
"When I asked him what it was he wouldn't tell me. He just said, "D-don't sp-spend the n-night alone."
"Well, I did not have a choice. At that time I would live in the house as I fixed it up. That way I did not have to pay rent. The first day I fixed up one room as my bedroom. There was no electricity or gas so I used a camp stove to cook my supper and a flashlight to read by."
Jake then turned to us kids and said, "I still read every night before I go to bed. Do you kids read every night?" I nodded. He said, "Readers are leaders and don't forget it." I didn't.
Jake went on with his story: "I forget what I was reading that night, Edgar Allen Poe or Stephen King or something. I love a good ghost story. Just as I was getting to the scary part of the book I heard it…( make a scratching sound), a strange scratching kind of noise. It is hard to describe, but it was coming from upstairs. I was not scared, well maybe a little, but I was more curious than scared.
"I grabbed my flashlight and headed up stairs. Squeak, squeak, squeak. Those stairs sure were noisy. When I got to the second floor I heard it louder, closer. Whatever it was, sounded like it was in the ceiling. I did not know the place had an attic. I looked around and found some of those folding ladder type stairs that you pull down from the ceiling. I reached up to grab the string, pulled down and AAHH! *
"A bunch of dust, dirt and leaves fell into my face! I was scared, too. The sound, whatever it was, was definitely louder, closer, and it was up those stairs.
"I shined my flashlight up there but I couldn't see anything. I d-did n-not b-believe in g-g-ghosts.
I headed up those stairs. Squeak… squeak… squeak… ARGH! *
I STEPPED ON A NAIL!
And a squirrel ran out the broken attic window!
*Prior to this point I talk quieter and slower and then make a loud scream! If your timing is right when you scream, the audience will jump! I usually get two good jumps from both of these simple jokes!
© 1998 Brian “Fox” Ellis * Fox Tales International