Halloween Ghost Story Contest -- 2008
Adult Winners

Third Place

Our third place Adult winner is Mary Harkins of Saugus, MA.

Childhood Lost

Mary Harkins

I couldn’t believe that I was standing at the door of my childhood home. Now it belonged to a close friend; newly purchased. I tried to swallow past the lump in my throat as I reached to press the doorbell. My hand shook violently and I grabbed it physically to stop its quake. I took a step back, breathed deeply and tried desperately not to remember. But of course, the more I tried, the more I couldn’t stop the rush of memories. 20 years away couldn’t erase the memories of the spirits that shared my childhood.

Now that the floodgates were opened I found it interesting that I couldn’t pinpoint the earliest memory. There had been so many encounters that at the time I started referring to them as episodes. As I got older the episodes became more infrequent but decidedly more violent. I also stopped referring to them as ghosts. Ghosts seemed too benign a term when I finally understood what they were. As I grew older they became entities and manifestations. Regardless of what I called them, they were with me all the time.

I must’ve been about 4 years old when I realized that my bedroom was the coldest room of the house. It was later that I associated the cold with the spirits. It was also much later when I realized what I was experiencing wasn’t normal.

“Mamma, I’m cold” I would say as my mother tucked me into bed. She would put another blankie over me and blow me a kiss and quietly close the door. I would lie awake with my eyes open, straining in the darkness…waiting. Then without warning it would start.

The poking.

First I would feel it on my shoulder. Then I would feel a poke at my back. I realize now that I rarely jumped. It was expected after all. Sometimes I would jump if I was poked someplace unexpected. But otherwise I endured the poking quietly. The poking must’ve been going on for years for me not to be fazed by it. I’m sure I was older when the other annoyances started because I understood enough that they should be frightening to me. And they were.

One night I was lying on my side waiting for the poking to start. Instead I felt a hot, harsh breath against my little face. SOMEONE WAS BREATHING ON ME!! I immediately flipped over and buried my face in my pillow and whimpered. I whimpered! I was startled by my reaction as much as the breaths on my face. Throughout that night I continued to feel the hot breath against my neck. From that night, it never stopped. There were gaps of time when I would go months without an episode but then it would return without warning.

One year, after enjoying several months reprieve, the poking and breaths started again. It occurred to me then that there was more than one entity in the room with me. Truthfully, I don’t remember what I called them. I was six years old. I don’t think I understood ghosts and death yet.

That night I assumed my usual sleeping position. On my side, facing the wall, covers pulled up to my chin, eyes firmly shut. That night something seemed out of the ordinary. The room was colder than usual. I felt a fierce sense of foreboding and I began to gasp in fear. I tried to calm down. My heart was thumping wildly in my ears. Soon, the heartbeats were joined by other sounds.


Frantic whispers!!

Unintelligible conversation!! Loud and disturbingly disembodied

How many were there in my tiny little girl’s bedroom?? Who were they? I covered my ears with both hands and tried to block out the chatter. All at once the voices stopped. I lay there, still stunned by the cerebral violence of the babble. To my utter horror, I felt pressure on my feet at the foot of my bed. Pressure and warmth.

Someone – SOMETHING was sitting on my bed……. with me.

In the darkness I curled up into a ball, knees up against my chest. I’ve slept that way ever since.

At that time those were the basic nature of the attacks. I became numb to them. At some point I began to believe they were playing with me. After all, I was a little girl. I almost believed that they were bothersome boys playing pranks on me. As I grew older and became accustomed to the mischief, they seemed to become more desperate to bring me back to the whimpers of my early childhood.

One afternoon I was alone in the house. I was in my bedroom and I was listening to records on a loud setting. I was pretending I was a rock star.


I paused. Was that my mother? Not quite.


“Gina! Whereareyou!”

It was fast and slightly garbled. I felt the familiar cold sweat. Who was calling me? The house was empty.

I slowly left my room and walked to the landing. I peered down the steps.



I walked down several steps taking comfort in the familiar creak. I sat down halfway down and strained to hear. No one was home. I was alone.

Then I heard the stairs creaking behind me.

I froze in place and refused to turn around. 

“GINA!!” The voice was directly beside me! It startled me. I jumped up and instantly lost my balance. Down I went. I broke my foot that day. It would’ve made quite the war story for a seven year old. For four weeks I was in a cast and trapped inside the house. They must’ve enjoyed that. Four weeks of poking and whispering and calling my name.

I never told anyone. I don’t know why I didn’t. My mother often asked me what was bothering me. How could I tell her that I would go down to basement and various objects would be thrown at me? Even when I was questioned, asked why there would be a pile of quarters at the foot of the basement steps, I couldn’t explain that the day before, a shower of quarters was flung onto me by an invisible presence.

For the most part, the occurrences were just annoying and exhausting. With the exception of my broken foot which wasn’t directly caused by the ghost, the episodes were all benign. I learned to live with them and pretty much put them out of my mind. Except for one experience that I could never forget.

One night I woke up sometime after midnight. I couldn’t tell what woke me. It was very quiet. For several moments I lay there, waiting for something to happen. After a bit I opened my eyes and looked out my open door into the circular landing outside my bedroom which was automatically in my line of vision. Seconds later I heard the creak of footsteps on the stairs.

My parents and brother had gone to bed hours ago so it couldn’t have been them. But still I sat up and watched the stairs, waiting for someone to show up. Hoping it was one of them. The creaking continued. Up and down the stairs- up and down, up and down - All night. I knew that my parents or brother didn’t hear the creaking. Their bedroom doors were closed. My father slept with the television on anyway.

After several nights of this, the creaking moved to the landing. Again I watched in anticipation as I listened to the footsteps stop at my bedroom door. They were heavy, plodding steps. Once they reached my bedroom door I could hear them start on the stairs again. They would creak up those 20 wooden steps and then lumber toward my bedroom, stop and then begin downstairs again.

After several nights I, as usual, got used to this new phenomena. I fell back into a deep sleep after the 2nd rotation. In my subconscious I could still hear the footsteps and the creaking. All of a sudden, the stair creaking stopped. Instead, the pacing continued outside my bedroom.

Back and forth. Back and forth in front of my threshold.

I slowly opened my eyes. My heart skipped I made out a figure in the semi darkness of the hall. I gasped at what I saw. It was a shadowy silhouette of a man, standing ramrod straight, marching back and forth in front of my bedroom door. I could see through his translucent form. He didn’t look my way. I wasn’t waiting for him to. I leapt from the bed and slammed the door and threw myself back into bed in seemingly one fluid motion.

I squeezed my eyes shut and started praying. I cried and I prayed, I curled myself in a ball and tried to ignore the poking that started at my back.

I then heard a terrifying sound.

Another familiar creak.

The oil free hinge creak of my bedroom door.


I simply froze. My frightened eyes staring in horror at my door.


When it was completely open I was stunned to find no one there. I held my breath as tears streamed silently down my face.

Seconds later, the man appeared at my door. He merely stood there..watching me. The man’s eye sockets were blackened and his mouth was hideously deformed. He vanished immediately. My mind crumbled and I started screaming. I screamed for what seemed like hours. My parents came running and I remember my mother holding me and rocking me while I cried my terror. My little brother was looking at me with fright in his eyes. It took a long time to calm me. I was ten years old. I can still remember his face. His leer.

I never saw that man again. Everything else continued but he never materialized again.

The years passed and I developed an unnatural fascination for ghost stories. It was as if I was challenging them to frighten me more than I’ve already been frightened. It was fascinating to me that those ghost stories always found a reason at the end to explain the haunting. My episodes were so random that I had trouble figuring out how many ghosts I was dealing with. If they were male or female, children or adults. I passed through time just waiting for the next incident.

Fortunately I grew up normal. Without twitches or phobias. I grew strong minded and composed and maybe just a bit stoic. The episodes rarely affected my days or my school work. I was a straight “A” student and had plenty of friends. Admittedly, the nights were different. It was as if I were two people. I believe I found a place to hide my fears. Unfortunately, that place was my sleeping subconscious mind. My dream state turned into endless hours of chaos and commotion. For many years after I finally left that house, I found myself unable to awaken from my disturbing and horrific dreams, unknowingly screaming out loud trying to rouse myself.

Thankfully, soon after I was married, my husband was there to help me. He would hear my screams and help wake me up. He would hold me as I waited for the nightmare to leave my frazzled mind.

Now, as I stand in the doorway of the home I left at 18, I could comfortably say that the nightmares had finally disappeared and the memories of those tormented years have diminished.

Then why was I afraid to ring the doorbell?

I took a deep breath and pressed, rewarded by the sweet chime of the doorbell. Ever pleased that it wasn’t the resonating dong that I remembered. My friend Karen answered the door with a big smile and invited me in.

“So, is it how you remembered?” She asked me. Not quite.

I’ve known Karen for 10 years and when she told me about the “incredible find” in my old neighborhood, I hesitantly asked her for the address. She was so tickled that it was my childhood home that I didn’t have the heart to tell her my story.

“It’s changed quite a bit” I commented. “I love the wall color”. We had wallpaper.

We walked around the house and I did my best to warm up and show enthusiasm but the familiar prickle of dread snuck up my back.

“Do you want to see the upstairs?” Sure, why not.

My legs felt wooden as I walked across the living room to the stairs leading to the 2nd floor. I looked up. My eyes grew wide in unveiled horror as I stared up toward my old landing. Karen followed my eyes and chuckled.

“Oh sweetie honey, come down and meet my friend Gina”

I almost cried as I watched Karen’s pretty little daughter slowly come down the stairs. She was so small and pale…and vulnerable. She was clutching a doll fiercely. The faraway look in her eyes spoke volumes.

“Hi sweetie”, I said softly. “How old are you?”

“Five” She replied, her voice soft and filled with melancholy.

I knelt down and drew the little girl into my arms and squeezed tightly. To my surprise, she squeezed me right back.

I pulled away and looked up at Karen.

“We need to talk.”

The End…

Continue to the 2nd place story

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