Rich Duncan: Along the Trail
One thing Shane and I wanted to do when we first launched Ink Heist was to have a section that focused on nonfiction. We love doing reviews and other features that are standard in the world of horror fiction, but we felt there was a lot of cool nonfiction related stuff we could do that wasn’t really present in the horror community. Some of our efforts moving forward will be a bit more serious, but we also wanted this section to be fun. We came up with a list of recurring features and two of them will likely be the ones that launch the nonfiction side of Ink Heist. One of them is called Grim Lore. This will be a series that focuses on regional folklore, myths, urban legends and anything else that is strange, unusual and adds a little vibrancy to the places we call home.
The other one we decided to launch is called Signals from the Abyss. This feature will focus on personal scary, weird and/or unexplained stories from both Shane and myself as well as other writers in the horror field. Shane and I both have a few stories we are excited to share with you and we hope you enjoy them. We are really excited about these features and we hope you will be too. I mean, who doesn’t love a good, creepy story?
I haven’t talked about my fascination with the paranormal and unexplained too much in a public setting because I usually limited my old blog The Horror Bookshelf to strictly highlighting dark fiction. However, longtime readers probably picked up on that passion through various ancedotes I have mentioned in reviews throughout the years. I’ve always had an interest in the paranormal or things that aren’t so easily explained away for as long as I can remember. As soon as I was able to read, I was checking out books on aliens, ghosts, cryptids and other unexplained phenomena by the armload from the local library. It’s hard to say where that initial spark of interest came from, but it probably reaches back farther than even my own memories.
Out of all the weird stuff I was interested in reading about, ghost activity is the one that I have actually experienced in real life on numerous occasions. I’ve lived in a total of three places that had some sort of strange activity take place. The first was one of my earliest memories, where I lived with my mom and stepdad before I started kindergarten. We lived in an old house that was a couple hundred years old, dating back to the Revolutionary War. It was around this time that I began to develop imaginary friends. Only I didn’t have just one. I insisted there were two, Pete and Cathy. Their names never changed and I talked about them like they were real people. Which is normal for kids at that age as that is generally when they begin forming imaginary friends and that wouldn’t be strange if that’s all there was to the story. What makes this story creepy is that we had ghost activity that indicated a mischievous – if not malicious – presence.
My stepdad used to work two jobs and would frequently be exhausted after finally making it home. One time he was sleeping in the living room, where there was a glass door that separated the living room from the hallway that led to other parts of the house. The door was usually open just as it was on the day of this story. From what I remember of his story, all of the windows were shut and it wasn’t particularly windy that day. Now I’m not naive enough to think a door in an old house can’t close on its own due to drafts and things of that nature. But when the door closed, my stepdad said it woke up from a dead sleep because the door slammed so hard into the frame, it rattled the glass. At the same time the door slammed shut, all of the windows – which were difficult to open on their best day – began opening and shutting on their own. Incidents like that helped contribute to the idea that maybe my imaginary friends may not have been so imaginary after all.
That period of my life very well could have been the basis for my fascination in the paranormal, but it’s hard to say. I remember having imaginary friends, but any weird phenomena that may have occurred was told to me secondhand. I don’t remember anything particularly out of the ordinary happening, but its possible that any of those memories just faded away with the passing of time. That all changed many years later when I had my own experience with the unexplained.
My parents got divorced when I was very young, so I spent the weekends with my dad. When I was around middle school age, my dad moved close by and lived in a small, white house that he rented along the creek that ran through our town. It was just off the main road, but behind it were the woods and the creek. If you walked out the front door there was a paved road where everyone parked their cars and below that was a trail and how you would access the woods. There were a few other identical houses next door to him and at the end of the drive was a big mansion style house. The guy my dad rented the house from told him the houses used to be summer homes for people who used to vacation there from Philadelphia in the 1800s and that his house – the bigger one – was where the train personnel would stay. This all checked out because there were records that mentioned the trail that ran along the woodline used to be part of the Perkiomen Railroad which was formed around 1852.
When my dad first moved in, nothing out of the ordinary would happen. It was just a normal house. But as time went by, more and more unexplained things began to happen in the house. I don’t remember how we got to talking about it, but one weekend when I was staying with my dad, he told me about an experience he had earlier in the week. He was doing something in the kitchen and when he turned around, he saw a dark shadow in the corner that was in the shape of a person. I know it sounds like it could have just been his own shadow, but this wasn’t just a normal shadow. “Shadow” is just the easiest way to describe what he had seen. A more accurate description would be that it resembled a dark void that was shaped like a person. That seemed to be the only spot that you would see this void, was in the corner of the kitchen.
People who are interested in reading about ghosts and associated phenomena know that animals are sensitive to things we may not perceive. My dad had a German Shepherd named Carly, and her reactions oftentimes amplified the creep factor after that initial sighting. Sometimes she would lay halfway in the living room, halfway in the kitchen and just growl or bark, even if nothing was there. Carly was one of the nicest, most timid dogs you could ever meet, so to hear her act like that was kind of strange. This kind of stuff creeped us out, but by and large, that was the only activity we experienced in the house. That is, until one late night when things escalated.
One weekend while I was at my dad’s, we were both up late watching TV. All of a sudden, we heard this weird noise coming from the roof. It wasn’t terribly loud and only lasted a few seconds. Being that the house bordered the woods and there were trees overhead, we originally thought nothing of it. Probably just something falling from the trees or a squirrel or something scampering across the roof. A few minutes of silence pass by and we go back to watching TV. Then the noises returned. Only this time they were louder, and they definitely didn’t sound like they were made by any animal.
Thump. Pause. Thump.
Two distinct noises that sounded like footsteps followed by silence. We muted the TV and looked up the ceiling.
“What the hell was that?”
Before I could reach the remote and unmute the TV, the noises returned. And they were even louder than before.
THUMP! THUMP! THUMP! THUMP!
Another pause. By now, it became clear that the sounds didn’t just sound like someone walking on the roof, but like they were methodically stomping their way across it. Chills raced up my back. We sat there, deathly still and didn’t make a sound. The noises started up again and that’s when my dad bolted to the door that led to the side of the house and practically kicked it open. I followed and when we made it to the side yard, the noises stopped. We looked up and there was no evidence anyone was on the roof and the night was silent. I’ll admit, I was a bit on edge the rest of the night and I kept waiting for something else strange to happen. But it never did. My dad lived in that house for a few years after that fateful night and while odd stuff would occasionally happen, nothing that pronounced ever occurred again. All I know is that night was pretty intense and creeped me out. So much so that I still remember it all these years later.
Interested in taking part in Signals From The Abyss or one of our other upcoming features? Feel free to send us an email through the “Contact” tab at the top of the page!