I tell ghost stories during the last week of October, I am famous for them at my school. My kids hear everything from Baba Yaga to this tale below. I’ve embellished the story a bit (he only remembers pieces, so I give the story more continuity and possibly his sister was there but possibly not), but one thing remains the same:
The Woman at the Top of the Stairs
When my husband was a little boy, he was out playing with his sister and a neighborhood friend. The boy’s name has been lost to memory so let’s call him Caleb. The trio were minding their own childhood business, when a group of teenage boys started picking on them.
Oh how little they were, what babies they were, they weren’t brave or anything. They bet them that they never did anything interesting or exciting- nah nah nah an boo boo- you get the idea.
Well Caleb was a little hot head, chubby, loud and very sensitive about his bravery being called into question. He naturally marched right up to those boys and told them that he and Ry (my husband) were the bravest boys on the block.
“Oh really?” Sneered the worst of the lot, “prove it.”
Oh men, the posturing.
“We will!” Yelled Caleb in youthful pride and arrogance.
“I have just the thing,”smirked one of the boys, “I dare you to stay in the McGrory house for an hour.”
The McGrory house?! Thought Ry, isn’t that…
“We know that old house isn’t haunted.” Bluffed Caleb. “It just… old, broken, and full of junk.”
“Condemned you mean, and off limites, you wanna go ask your mommy if you can go?” Mocked the teens.
“No, let’s go!” Caleb bellowed, grabbing Ry’s hand, yanking him down, away from the nice, safe cradle of the known cul-de-sac. Ry’s sister followed along twirling and skipping around the group. After all, it was the boy’s bravery in question, not her own.
They marched, past the new houses, through the streets of the older homes, past the cemetery, turn left and at the end of that road; a dead end.
At the McGrory house.
You could tell that once the house had been beautiful. Long graceful windows surrounded by once brightly painted carved paneling graced the peeling exterior. Grand double doors with boarded up planks, to keep things out. Long sweeping rooftops and naturally, there was a faux tower room gracing the right back portion. A less than intimidating fence surrounded the property.
The teens walked the young group to a particular lose board in the door, and pushed them through.
“We’ll be waiting out here for you chickens. See you in 5 minutes.” They snickered, walking back out to the fence.
Each child squeezed themselves through the planks into a foyer. The house was filled with dust, and with every step they took into the main room, clouds billowed around them.
They stopped in the center of this grand waiting area: infront, an open door seemed to lead into another room with dust covers and 3 legged tables; to the left was what we would call a parlor but perhaps a person would deem a sitting room; and to the right, a small door and a few feet later, a large staircase following the right wall up to the second floor.
Caleb marched his something-to-prove behind straight ahead, into the dust covers and furniture, his sneakers echoing hollowly against the floor boards.
Little sister saw, “pretty crystals!” Peeping out of a dust cover in the parlor. Off she went to investigate.
Ry was left alone in the great room, he walked around, surveying the woodpaneling, the half hung empty frames on the wall and the massive crystal chandelier over head. Crystal was an overstatement, it looked more like a skeleton’s hand grasping a pitiful handful of crystals.
He looked up into the crystals, circling underneath enjoying the few sun beams that penetrated the dust and gloom, when he heard a creek. Almost like someone had walked into the room.
Ry looked around then up, there, at the top of the stairs stood a woman dressed in a long brown dress. Her hair was in a bun, and her right hand rested on the bannister.
“I am so sorry ma’am! We didn’t know any one was home! We’ll leave right away!”
The lady smiled at him then.
Encouraged, Ry continued, “I’ll get the others, just please don’t call our parents!”
The woman, still smiling, began to walk down the stairs, her hand skimming the bannister as she walked.
The woman, Ry realized as his eyes shot downwards, had no legs.
He looked up in shock and fear as he realized the eyes were too bright and the smile a grin to wide; her right hand now pointing, pointing at him as she glided down the stairs with greater speed.
He knew she would come to him, and she would do something a great deal more frightening than what he had earlier feared.
As frightened, trapped children do, he collapsed into himself, forming a small ball a hoping for divine intervention.
He felt her, almost heard her get closer to his small form. He stiffened.
A hand touched his back and he hollered in pure fear.
“Ry what are you doing?” Asked an innocently curious sister.
Jumping up to his feet, Ry grabbed little sister and ran back into the foyer, pushing her through the hole the lose board provided. Still panicking, he shoved himself through as well, scratching his shoulder badly with a nail.
Caleb and the teens were no were to be seen, which really didn’t matter to Ry in the slightest. He ran home, frantically told his mother everything that occurred. While cleaning his cut, (and preparing him to leave to get a tetanus shot) she assured Ry he must have fallen asleep waiting for Caleb and his sister to finish exploring the house. Such an old house must lead to such imaginative dreams.