I’ll admit this now and get it out of the way. I am a massive skeptic when it comes to ghosts and the supernatural, but that didn’t stop me going to a seance with my girlfriend and a couple of buddies. I promised her that I wouldn’t make fun of it and that I’d be on my best behaviour.
When we arrived at the mansion house in the middle of Dorset, I couldn’t help but smirk. It looked like your typical “haunted house”.
Erica slapped my arm, “Stop it Carl!” I promised her again.
Inside, it was instantly colder than the warm summer evening we’d been enjoying. I made a mental note to look for air conditioning units, though the place was silent. The medium, wearing a floral gown and some sort of faux-diamond headdress, appeared as if from no where, and I jumped. Erica had her own little smile from this and I nodded, confirming to her we were now equal. James and Sam followed in behind.
“Have you got your tickets?” the woman asked.
I stifled another smirk. It was like a ride at Disney.
“Thank you,” she said, as we handed them over, “you can have a wander around if you want. We are expecting some more people. Just don’t go up to the first floor.”
Oooo, the first floor, I bet that’s where she keeps all the ghosts, I thought to myself.
The living room was grand. Book shelves lined the walls with old tomes, some in Latin, but mostly in English, with occult sounding titles. There was a large dinning table in the middle of the room, decorated with an Ouija board and candles. I assumed this was where we’d be doing the seance.
I took my time, checking for wires, picking up books to see if they were rigged. The chandelier that hung above the table was austere and seemed the only genuinely expensive item in the place. The carpet was threadbare. I assumed with the amount of money we had to pay to watch this show they’d at least have nice carpet. I guess it was all part of the character.
We left the main room and headed into a corridor. Candles flickered, casting shadows that danced on the walls.
“I don’t like this,” Erica said, gripping my arm tightly, “where’s the others?”
“It’s fine,” I said, with a bravado that was not fitting for my usually reserved character. This place was only a set, somewhere to make us on edge, so that the seance would be all the more grand.
We passed a room with a pool table. The balls were laid out as if someone had left in the middle of a game. When we passed the next doorway and Erica screamed.
I turned to see a mannequin was set up in front of a piano and another sat cross-legged on a couch, reading what I assumed was a very out of date newspaper. I couldn’t hold in my glee. I burst out laughing.
“It’s not funny!” she said, hitting my arm with her free hand.
“Come on, it’s just part of the show. Relax.”
It’s arrogant I know, but I felt the superior person here for the first time in our relationship.
At the end of the hallway was a staircase that looped back on us and led to the first floor.
“Let’s go upstairs,” I said.
“No! The woman said we can’t!” she demanded.
“Come on, that’s because there’s something she doesn’t want us to see. Don’t you want to take a look?”
Nervously she followed. The floor creaked under our steps, louder than you’d expect. I wondered if this was an early warning system for the medium to know someone was trespassing. We were halfway up the stairs when I heard the sound of footsteps creak from above. My heart skipped a beat.
“Did you hear that?” Erica said anxiously, “let’s go back.”
“I think that’s a good idea, Carl,” we heard from the bottom of the stairs. It was the medium, “we’re starting soon.”
How did she know my name? For a moment I was impressed, then I remembered handing over the tickets.
She tapped her fingers to her temple insinuating she had intuited it. We turned and followed.
We passed the room with the mannequins and I did a double take. I swore the mannequin in front of the piano was sitting before. Now it was standing next to it. And the one on the couch, its newspaper was folded down, its soulless eyes stared back at me.
“We’ll be starting in five minutes,” the medium said as we entered the main room.
“I need to use the toilet, will you come with me?” Erica asked.
“Why, are you scared?”
“Don’t be mean!”
“Fine,” I said and followed her out of the room.
She entered the small closet toilet in the entry way and I peered back into the main room to see the medium had placed tea cups at each place setting and filled it with steaming liquid. She then sprinkled a tiny amount of power into each, failing to do this for the cup at the head of the table, where I assumed she was sitting. God damn bitch is going to drug us.
“Are you looking forward to this?” Sam asked, already knowing what my reply was going to be.
I turned around.
“Sure,” I said sarcastically.
“Please take your seats, we will be starting momentarily,” the medium said to everyone gathered in the hallway.
“Could you see if Erica is all right?” I asked Sam, before trotting into the main room.
I was there alone. I took the opportunity to swap the medium’s cup with mine and I sat at the table. My smile from earlier was now wider than it had been all night.
“Why didn’t you wait for me?” Erica demanded as she stormed into the room.
“Sorry,” I said, wiping the shit eating grin off my face, “I asked Sam to take care of you.”
She shook her head and sat next to me, folding her arms. She was clearly pissed, but what I had done was worth it. This was going to be hilarious.
As the last of us sat, the medium entered saying, “Are there any skeptics in the room?”
I was the only person to put up my arm. She circled the room and lit the candles.
“May I ask that you enter this seance with an open mind, and please do not laugh or speak when not spoken to. It will anger the spirits.”
“I promise,” I said, putting my arm down.
She sat at the head of the table and reached out her arm. The lights went out, the room then only lit by the flickering light from the candles. Everyone gasped.
Come on, it’s probably a switch under the table, I thought.
“The drink in front of you is for protection. Drink up and we will begin.”
Everyone picked up their cups and drank, and so did I.
“Take the hands of your neighbours so we can start a circle,” the medium said, before closing her eyes.
I held Erica and Sam’s hands.
“Spirits, I reach out to you to contact us and show that you are here.”
The room got colder. Vapour formed in the air in front of my mouth.
“Has anyone lost a Grandmother in the last year?”
“I have,” a man said from across the table.
“What was her name?” she asked.
Don’t give her the name! Make her work for it!
“Doris,” he said, volunteering the information.
I shook my head.
“She died quite young for a grandmother, is that right?”
“Yes,” he said, clearly taken in by the medium.
“She’s here now and she wants you to know that she’s not hurting anymore. Does that make sense to you?”
I peered around the room. In the corner, it was hard to see in the low light, but it looked as though an old woman stood there.
“She’s gone now,” the medium said. And with that, the faint image disappeared.
Pretty good effects, I didn’t expect that.
“Something’s wrong,” the medium said, “I don’t feel right. I think we need to stop.”
My grin returned, as I assumed the drug she put in my drink was now taking effect. I checked Sam and Erica, though they were fine, they were transfixed on the medium. Footsteps creaked from the floor above us.
The medium’s voice growled and broke out into a low chuckle.
“Ha ha ha,” she said in a staccato tone, “Carl has been a naughty boy.”
Her head snapped back and a gasp left her mouth.
“What did you do?” Erica demanded.
I panicked, my hands sweated in hers. Across the table, I saw a man standing in brown robes. His face was distorted and covered in blood.
“There’s something wrong with the ring of protection,” the medium announced, “please keep holding each other’s hands.”
“Carl,” the voice was low and crackled, “Caaaarrrrlll.”
An impossibly tall, spindly woman appeared and stood behind the medium and stroked her head. The apparition’s scraggly black hair covered most of her face. Her long thin arms reached out and touched the participants nearest to her. They shivered, unaware of her presence.
“I switched the cups,” I blurted out, “I saw you put the powder in them. I thought you were drugging us.”
The medium convulsed.
“What’s going on, I want to leave,” a woman said from the other side of the table.
“Keep holding each other’s hands,” the medium said in a weak voice, “Carl, you need to banish them.”
I felt ice cold hands grip my shoulders.
Let me in, a voice whispered into my ear.
“Fight them, Carl,” she said, her voice becoming quieter.
With the crack of bones, the stick-like woman dislocated her jaw and wrapped it around the medium’s head. I felt a tug at my t-shirt. I turned to see a little girl, her hair was matted and wet, her black eyes stared at me as I heard a whisper in my head, let me in.
“NO!” I insisted, but she continued to tug.
“Carl, go upstairs,” the medium said, her voice now so quiet, “break the seal.”
Her head then thunked to the table. I looked around and saw the others now had their eyes shut, as if in some sort of trance.
I pulled my hands out of the tight grips from Sam and Erica, and as I did, their heads hung to their chests. I pushed myself up and broke free of the grasp of the two entities that clung to me. I rushed out of the room and into the corridor. As I peered behind me, I saw the man in robes and the little girl, they shuffled towards me.
I ran and glanced into the piano room, to see the two mannequins stand at the threshold of the door, their arms outstretched, reaching for me. I slunk away from their grasps and took the stairs two at a time, the creaks of the floorboards echoing through the house.
It was dark at the top except for candle light that flickered behind a door that sat ajar. I pushed it open to see the room lit up from hundreds of candles. An occult diagram was drawn on the wooden floorboards in what I guessed was charcoal. Metal urns sat on pedestals.
A white cloth was draped on the back of a chair, covered in black stains. I reached for it and began scrubbing the marks on the floor. I felt a tug on my t-shirt.
Let me in, please, the little girl pleaded.
I tried to swat her away, but my hand passed straight through hers. I continued to scrub, I watched as the charcoal began to rub away. I felt icy-cold hands around my throat.
Let me in, Carl, it demanded.
I scoured as my neck was forced up, so that all I could see was the ceiling. The pain was intense and as quickly as it started, it stopped. Instantly the candles blew out. I flopped to the floor and onto my back. I breathed heavily. There were no longer hands around my neck and no one tugged at my shirt.
It was more than five minutes until I had the energy to get up. I gingerly got to my feet and stumbled in the darkness for the door. The dim light from downstairs was all I had for guidance as I reached the stairs and descended.
“Carl, you’re not supposed to be up here,” the medium scolded from the bottom of the stairs, “we’re starting soon.”
I walked past the piano room and saw the mannequin that sat in front of the piano and the other reading the out of date newspaper on the couch. In the main room, the medium poured steaming liquid into the cups.
I returned to the hallway.
“Thanks for waiting for me,” Erica said.
“I think we need to leave,” I replied.
“It looks like you’ve seen a ghost,” she said.
My face was drenched in a cold sweat.
“Please, can we just leave?”
“I thought you didn’t believe in ghosts,” she said, with a shit eating grin on her lips.
“Maybe I was wrong.”