“You boys just stay away from the spooky house.” Old Man Johnson loved to talk with everyone who went by his house and we always would stop to talk to him.
We would ride our bikes and if he was sitting on the porch smoking his pipe, we took that as the sign to visit. It was October and getting darker earlier, and time to ask about the Spooky House.
Billy Wakefield and I sat Indian style on his porch right almost at his feet.
We could not have been more different. Billy with straight blonde hair. My was black, not brown, black.
He was more daring than me. His family did not go to any church, my family were all Catholic.
“Now, you boys be careful out there.” He said as he took another puff on his pipe. The smoke came out of his mouth and the slight October wind carried it away. “That spooky house is no place for a bunch of twelve year old adventurers. It is dangerous in there.”
“But you went in there Mr. Johnson, when you were a fireman didn’t you.” Billy said. His father was a novelist and Billy seemed to have the same gene. He always asked as if he was trying to build a story.
“Yes, boys, I was in there once and I could not have left there quick enough.” He took another puff.
I have to admit, I loved the smell of his pipe and many years later, I still remember it every time something reminds me of those talks with Old Man Johnson.
“The high school boys go in there.” I said.
“The high school boys, are older than two young sixth graders but that does not mean they are smarter. If the police find them they will run them out, if not arrest them. It is not safe in there.”
“Is it true about the face?” Billy’s blue eyes were huge as he asked the question.
There was a rumor that one could see a face in one of the windows. Supposedly some kind of ghostly image.
“I’ve heard the rumor, boys, but I never seen it.” He blew more smoke out of his mouth.
“Yessir. That house has been empty for almost forty years.” He said looking down at both of us as he took another puff of his pipe.
“That was the Weldin house. Built in 1883 by then young Mr. Weldin for his wife. They never had children. He died in 1958. She died in 1962 and its been abandoned ever since.”
“Wow!” Billy looked to me. “It must be really creepy in there.” He said.
“Well,” I said, that is why they call it the spooky house. Right Mr. Johnson?”
“Yes, Tommy. But an old abandoned house can be quite dangerous, boys, you stay away from there.”
I stood up, it was getting close to sundown and my parents did not want me on my bike in the dark. Billy’s parents told him the same thing. “I think we need to get going, Mr. Johnson.”
“Well, thanks for coming by boys, and remember.” He suddenly looked really serious like and looked right into our eyes. “Do not go into the spooky house.”
“Yessir.” Said Billy.
“Boys,” he called after us as we mounted our bikes. “Never go where you are not supposed to go and never do what you are not supposed to do. If you remember that, you will always be ok.”
"Right, Mr. Johnson," I said as we rode off to our houses.
I heard a knock on my window around eleven o’clock at night. Apparently, it woke me up and I could see a human silhouette through the drawn shades. Moonlight shining through the night enforced the lines onto the shade.
“Tommy. . .” I could barely hear my name the silhouette whispered through the window. My bed was up against the wall and the window, I woke up and lifted the shade. Billy was standing over his bike on the other side in the garden.
I whispered. “What are you doing here?”
“I couldn’t sleep. All I could think of is going into that house at night. I want to see the face and I want to see what it is like in the spooky house." He spoke softly, so he would not wake up my mom and dad.
“We can’t do that, our parents will not let us and you heard Old Man Johnson.” I was almost kneeling on my bed holding the shade up with my right hand and stabilizing my body with my left.
“No one needs to know,” he whispered. “We will be there and back and no one will know. But I want to see the face.”
“But what if something goes wrong?” I said. I felt torn between not going and doing what I am supposed to do and joining Billy on his adventure. I really did not want to disobey my parents.
“What is going to go wrong?” He rolled his eyes. “Unless you are cowarding out.”
“I am not cowarding out.” I shot back.
“Well I am going to go there, you can coward out in your bed if you want. I will tell you all about it, tomorrow.” He got on to his bike and began to ride off.
“No wait!” I whispered a bit louder. “I will be right out.” I dropped the shade, quietly got out of bed, changed into my jeans, shirt and windbreaker, then snuck out of the house. I know that I did not wake up Mom or Dad or my younger sister.
Billy led the way riding his bike to the spooky house. I followed. We both had lights on the front and red lights on the back, so even though Mom and Dad did not want us to ride the bikes at night we realized we were safe. The full moon was so bright that we could see fairly well, although it was dark.
Billy arrived first, threw down his bike and began to run to front door.
The house looked darker and scarier than during the day. The peeling paint became like the parts of web built by a house size venomous spider. Windows turned into eyes on top floor and teeth with lips on the bottom as if the house was going to consume all who entered it. The whole inside was black like tar.
“Come with me!” Billy screamed back to me as he ran to the house.
“Billy! Stop!” I yelled back.
But he continued on and opened the old worn door. Paint chips fell onto the creaky porch floorboards.
“Lord, I am sorry I did this, I know I disobeyed you and my parents and now I feel, I will get in big trouble.” I prayed.
I stopped, the terror overcame me so much I stood paralyzed over my bike. I just could not bring myself to enter that house. I don’t know whether I was afraid of getting into trouble or afraid of what was in beyond the front door. I just was afraid.
Billy’s laughter as he disappeared in the darkness was almost not his. “Ha Ha,” he yelled. “I am not afraid of the spooky house.” He left the door open for me.
I saw him quickly become surrounded by the darkness and heard his footsteps fade off into the mouth of the angry house.
“Coward out, Tommy!” was the last I heard, just barely, as he vanished before my eyes.
I stood alone in the silence, shaking, cold and terror struck.
“Lord Jesus, please make Billy come back right away.” I prayed. “I am sorry, I am cowarding out, but I should never have come.” I shook my head in regret as I stared at the dark open doorway that seemed to have swallowed Billy whole, like he fell into another dimension.
Then it happened.
“Help me! Help me! It’s got me.” Billy’s voice did not sound like he was playing tricks on me. Neither was their any sign of him laughing. I could hear terror in every word.
“Billy!” I yelled, running to the doorway. But then I stopped, frozen, petrified as if my fear turned me to stone. I could not move my legs or my arms. I was too afraid to go in the spooky house.
Billy let out a blood curdling scream and I knew he was in deep danger. It was real. “It’s got me! Help me, Tommy.”
“Lord, please help me to help Billy.” I prayed. “I know there is something really scary in there, but help me to trust that you are more powerful than what is so scary.” I said aloud.
I then with all my might, pushed myself through my terror paralysis and fell into the house.
“Hurry, Tommy. Hurry.” Billy screamed again.
“Billy, keep yelling so I can find you.” I yelled back. I focused on helping Billy and blocked the terror out of my mind.
I stood up surrounded by the dark that swallowed Billy. As I walked straight and realized that I came to a stairway. My hand felt along the cobwebs on the banister as I held on to go step my step. I could feel my fingers trembling and at one point, I know I touched something, crawl onto my hand. I shook my hand in violent panic. "Get off me," I yelled. I don’t know what it was, but it did not bite me.
I continued step by step, not even knowing how much further to the top. But it sounded like Billy was somewhere on the second floor. There was a squeaky noise and then a mouse or something crossed my shoe. I took a quick panic stricken breath and then I continued on.
“Billy, where are you?”
“Hurry, Tommy, please, I can’t hold on much longer.”
His voice seemed to come from my right side a ways in. The banister moved to the right and I knew I was on the second floor. Moonlight shined in through the window giving me a slight view of where to walk. I saw a doorway covered with cobwebs on top. The bottom was clear of them, brushed away. Tommy must have done it.
“Lord Jesus help us.” I prayed and then walked into the room, pushing away more cobwebs the Billy missed.
Billy was sticking out of the floor in the center of the room. The moonlight illuminated his blonde hair. His arms were straight out from his sides and they were keeping him from falling through a big hole.
“I can feel something pulling at my feet trying to pull me down.” Billy yelled. He was not joking, this was no prank. He was truly panic-stricken.
I ran over to him and kneeled on the solid part of the floor. Behind his back, I grabbed him around his chest, under his arms and tried to pull him up. I could literally feel,I was pulling against another force dragging him in the opposite direction.
As I was pulling, I felt a cold wind against my cheek and I know I heard it speak. “Get out of this house.”
“Did you hear that, Billy”
“Yes, it wants us out of the house.”
I could tell he was trying not to cry.
“I can’t budge you, something is stronger than me.” I yelled, trying to pull Billy up out of the hole. Then, looking around the room. “Look a chair.”
“This is not the time to sit down. Keep trying.” Billy was almost out of his mind with fear.
“No, hold on, I will bring the chair over here and you can try to climb onto it and out of the hole.”
Running over to the chair, in the moonlight, I grabbed it, wiped away more cobwebs and put it almost on Billy’s left hand. He grabbed a leg and held on.
“I will move the chair in front of you. You move your right hand to grab it.”
I stood on the opposite side next to the chair and moved it slowly to right in front of his face. He moved his right hand, keeping his arm outstretched, so that he would not fall. He grabbed the chair. I held it down, so it would not tip and then he began to pull himself out of the hole.
“It is so hard, I know something is fighting me.” he slowly climbed up, but I could tell he was fighting something as if he had heavy weights on his feet.
“Get out of this house.” The wind blew again.
Billy strained harder but was almost free. I wanted to help him, but I needed to steady the chair.
“Yes, Billy, but you are making it.”
‘Flop,” I heard from down stairs.
“My shoe, I lost my shoe.” Billy yelled, as he climbed further up the chair and finally out of the hole.
Sure enough, he left foot had nothing but a brown sock on it.
“Forget that Billy, let’s get out of here.”
We both headed toward the stair case which was easier to see against the backdrop of the moonlight shining through the windows. Billy ran out of the house. I stopped at the bottom of the stairway and looked into the room, up at the hole and then down at his shoe on its side in the middle of the room.
“Lord, give me the courage to grab Billy’s shoe.” I prayed.
Running into the room, I felt this wind blow further against me and even louder I heard, “Get out of this house.”
I felt a burst of anger fill in me. “Give me Billy’s shoe.” I yelled back.
Suddenly the wind blew so powerfully that Billy’s shoe raised up off the floor and then through the glassless front window and onto the lawn.
I turned and ran out of the house.
Billy was on the ground face down hiding his head in his hands and crying. I got his shoe, and put it into his hand.
He took it, wiped away the tears as he sat up and put the shoe on his foot. “The face, it’s the face.” He yelled as he stood and ran for his bike, without even tying the lacings. Then he rode off to his house.
I looked up and sure enough there was a face looking down at me. I was like a baby’s face. But it was not scary, it was almost smiling. It did not matter, I ran for my bike and I too headed home.
I snuck into my house and got into my bed and hid under the covers for the rest of the night, waiting for the sun to come up.
That is not the end of the story, by the way.
You see, I learned a powerful lesson that night that took me right to this day, as I begin my first day of graduate school.
Many years later, on a trip to the art museum, in my first year of high school, I saw a painting of angels holding up the Throne of Jesus our King. One of those angels had the exact same face as the one I saw in that spooky house.
It was then I figured it out. Those were not ghosts we encountered in that house, they were angels. You might ask that angels are supposed to protect us why would they scare us?
Well, neither Billy nor I ever forgot that night. We learned something then: Never go where you are not supposed to go and never do what you are not supposed to do.
We did many things wrong that night. We disobeyed our parents, we put ourselves in danger and we committed the sin of doing what we weren’t supposed to do.
Throughout our school years, both us remembered that night and any time we were invited to places we were not supposed to go, we always said no. Any time we were tempted to do something we were not supposed to do, we said no. We never did drugs, we never got into trouble, we never missed a homework assignment and Billy and I graduated with honors from college. He is just about to start to teach English at Enfield, Massachusetts High School and me, well I am about to start graduate school learning to be an engineer.
Those angels taught us an important lesson, so they did protect us from many dangers through our times growing up: Never go where you are not supposed to go and never do what you are not supposed to do.