Halloween Ghost Story Contest -- 2013
Adult Winners

Second Place

Our second place Adult winner is Ryan Dale Deardorff of Ottawa, Kansas. Mr. Deardorff is a published author who also won this contest both last year and in 2010.

The Family Ghost

Ryan Dale Deardorff

“Let's return you to your family,” said the girl as she carefully pulled herself onto the first branch of a rather ancient pecan tree.

In her shirt pocket chirped a small bird; a robin that had fallen out of a nest that sat several branches above her head. Below her stood her wide-eyed younger brother, who was looking up, eager to climb.

Climbing seemed to come natural to her, especially now that she was almost a teenager. She had longer arms and legs than the winter before and found it easier to reach the tree limbs than she had in summers past.

Her brother called out from below. “Lenore, you think I'll be able to climb this tree soon?”

“No, Able, your only seven years old, and can't even reach the first branch. Besides, Aunt Betty won't let you.”

“She won't let you either,” argued Able, “and besides, she might never know.”

“Don't be so sure she wouldn't find out,” said Lenore as she pulled herself up to the next branch. “This pecan tree can be seen from the house, you know.”

Above them, upon the hill, sat a tall white Victorian house which they called home. Several weeping willows cuddled next to it on both sides, swaying gently in the wind.

Lenore conquered another branch and was quickly closing in on the robin's nest.

From a nearby tree, an adult robin chirped in disapproval while nervously beating her wings.

“The momma bird is getting mad,” observed Able.

“She's not the only one,” added Lenore as she noticed Aunt Betty coming out of the house and hurrying down the path, heading their way. Aunt Betty's usual smooth faced expression was contorted by anger.

Although distant, Aunt Betty's voice rang out angrily, echoing down the hill, “Lenore Mayfield, young lady, you get down from there right now!”

Lenore ignored her aunt. The nest was almost in reach. It sat comfortably between two branches just above her head. The limb she was standing on was stout but she needed to rest her right foot upon another to balance herself, and that branch wasn't as sturdy. Once she felt she had a good footing, Lenore reached into her pocket and carefully pulled out the baby bird.

“Lenore!” screamed out Aunt Betty. “Come down this instant!”

“Better come down,” echoed Able from below.

“In a second,” said Lenore as she reached up and began to place the baby bird back into its nest.

As soon as Lenore had returned the baby bird to its nest, the mother bird flew in from the nearby tree, screeching angrily. It fluttered so close to Lenore that she could feel the wind from the bird's wings upon her face. Lenore screamed in terror and lost her balance. She leaned a little too far upon the frail limb she had been balancing on and it gave way. Suddenly, she found herself in a free fall. She painfully hit a branch below with her back and it spun her around. She could see the ground coming fast, but it wasn't just the ground waiting for her -- so too was her little brother, wide eyed and frozen where he stood.

Aunt Betty let out a shriek as her niece crash down upon her nephew. The lower half of Lenore's body hit Able, square on, while the upper half, including her head, slammed down upon the ground with a sickening thud. The world quickly went black for the both of them.


When Lenore finally woke up, her head swam heavy with confusion. Flashes of her fall raced through her mind from someplace between sleep and consciousness. This seemed to go on and on for quite some time. In her visions she could see the frightened expressions of both her aunt and her brother but their faces seemed so unfamiliar. She could hear their cries but knew not their voices. She knew little of her surroundings, only of the hulking pecan tree above her. She knew nothing of herself, not even her own name. The only thing that seemed familiar to her was the tall white house on the hill. It seemed faint and distant but somehow she knew it to be home.


Lenore opened her eyes for what seemed like the first time. Her thoughts were clearer now but only because there were fewer of them. She lay on a bed, starring up into the unfamiliar face of an old woman; yet the women's eyes did somehow seem familiar. Lenore was almost certain she knew the lady, but try as she may, she could not put a name to the face of the old woman who was her own Aunt Betty.

Lenore muttered a few words in confusion.

“There, there, child,” said Aunt Betty. “Just continue to rest.”

“Where am I?” asked Lenore, rolling her head to the side to look around at the dim bedroom she was in. She could tell it was light outside, but the curtains in the room were pulled.

“You're here at the house,” replied Aunt Betty.

Lenore caught the stare of a boy who stood silently in the corner of the room, watching her. He seemed to be about her age but she didn't recognize him. His face was expressionless and pale which contrasted sharply with his jet black hair.

“Who's that?” she asked.

“That's Henry,” answered Aunt Betty. “He's been here a little while now. Don't worry about him, he's harmless. Never mutters a word though, but he seems to understand what I say well enough.”

Lenore rolled her head back around to look at her Aunt Betty. She searched for answers but still came up empty. “How long have I been asleep?”

“A long time, child. Don't you remember anything?”

Lenore searched deeper within herself for answers. Like shadows in the fog she could hear bits of voices and see portions of faces. Suddenly one face became quite clear; the face of her brother. She remembered she had a brother, but his face held an agonizing expression; something she had caused, something she had done.

“Able!” Lenore cried out, suddenly sitting up. The room spun heavily around her and she couldn't help but sink back down upon the bed.

“Lay still child,” soothed Aunt Betty. “You mustn't use up so much energy.”

“But my brother Able, I hurt him didn't I? I -- I fell on him. Is he...” She paused and considered the worse. She wanted to ask if he was dead, but instead said, “Is he ok?”

Aunt Betty smiled. “Don't spend any energy worrying about your brother. Able is near.”

Lenore sighed. She closed her eyes as a sudden rush of fatigue seemed to float over her. “I want to see him,” she said with her eyes half shut.

“Soon enough,” assured Aunt Betty. “But for now, child, just get some rest.”

Lenore took one last look at Henry and then slipped away from consciousness as her thoughts washed about her head like gentle waves.


When Lenore woke up again it was dark outside. This time there was no Aunt Betty sitting next to her and for better or worse, no Henry starring at her in the corner. She was all alone and felt alone. Her head was still clouded but what thoughts she had were on her brother. She wanted to find Able, to see him herself and make sure he was ok; to apologize for falling down upon him.

Sitting up in bed, she was overwhelmed with dizziness and had to sit still until it passed. She felt her head for a lump from the accident, but whatever lump there had been was not there anymore. Even with this slight movement she felt very week and dizzy. Her eyes seemed well accustomed to the darkness, so seeing wasn't a problem, that is, as long as she could see straight.

Lenore lowered her feet to the floor. She paused for a moment until the dizziness passed and then stood up. She then balanced herself against the wall and carefully made her way to the door. The door was cracked a little. Just opening it the rest of the way seemed such a chore. She paused once again to gain her balance before stepping out into the hallway.

Lenore walked by the next room where the door stood wide open. She saw the woman who was her Aunt Betty, sleeping in a rocking chair. The chair was slightly rocking with a little “creak, creak.”

Moving past Aunt Betty, she came upon a portrait hanging on the wall. It was of a young family posing together; a man, a women and a boy. She didn't recognize the man or the women, but the boy was very familiar. It was Henry; the same Henry she had seen in the corner of her room, but this Henry showed more life. This Henry had a smile on his face.

Through the glass reflection of the portrait a pair of solemn eyes suddenly appeared behind Lenore. She gasped in fright and then turned around to look into the very eyes she had been looking at in the portrait; Henry stood before her, pale and expressionless as before.

“You scared me half to death,” scolded Lenore.

Henry didn't respond.

Lenore searched his face and her thoughts, but still, this boy was a mystery to her.

“Who are you,” she asked? “Why have you come to live with us?”

Again, Henry didn't respond.

Lenore grew angry with frustration. She wanted to scream. She grabbed Henry by the shoulders and began to shake him. “Can't you say anything?” she asked.

Henry still didn't respond.

Extreme dizziness fell over Lenore. She instantly stopped shaking Henry and had to concentrate just to stay on her feet. She closed her eyes and searched her thoughts as the world swayed around her. Perhaps trying to jar Henry had instead jarred something inside of her because she remembered something about the house around her. She remembered the photo albums in the living room. She knew looking at those photos would be the perfect way to stir up any memories she was missing.

Lenore continued down the hallway and into the living room with Henry following close behind. She dizzily walked over to a coffee table and sat down on the floor next to it. Reaching into a drawer underneath, she pulled out one of the books inside. To Lenore, the book felt as if it weighed a hundred pounds, but she managed to lay it on the floor before having to pause to regain her strength. She noticed a candle sitting on the coffee table and a book of matches. She managed to light the candle but like everything else she did, it took great effort.

Lenore had learned her lesson. It seemed everything she did was a chore, so when she opened the photo album and began to turn the pages, she did so very slowly. The faces she saw first off were the same as in the portrait in the hallway. They were the faces of Henry and who she guessed must have been his mother and father.

Lenore paused to look at the real Henry, who now stood silently looking at her in the corner of the room. He must be family, she thought, no doubt about it. That would explain why he's here, but what of his parents, Lenore couldn't guess. Again she turned the pages of the photo album. This time she saw pictures of her Aunt Betty.

“Aunt Betty,” she said, suddenly remembering. She placed a finger on the photo. “Yes, of course, you're my Aunt Betty.”

Lenore continued to study the photos until they ran out. She then slowly reached back into the drawer and grabbed another album. The cover looked familiar to her. Upon opening it, she gazed upon a picture of herself and her brother Able. Immediately, fond memories of him filled her head and for the first time in a long time her thoughts seemed much clearer. She studied more pictures of herself and her brother, along with Aunt Betty. She soon found herself smiling, lost in her own memories which were quickly pouring back into her head.

The silence around Lenore suddenly broke as someone stirred from the other side of the room. She quickly looked up in that direction. At first she believed that Henry had moved, but Henry's position hadn't changed; he was still visible out of the corner of her eye. She searched the shadows cast by the flickering candle. Still, there was nothing for her to see, or so at first it seemed.

Was that a leg, and an arm, or perhaps part of the davenport or the clock in the background, she thought? She was about to dismiss it as her imagination until a face suddenly appeared out of the shadows she had been searching. Through a part in the curtains the moon cast light on someone who had taken a step towards her. There appeared a ghostly outline of an old man's face. She could see him clearer now. His eyes were distinctly gazing at her. Again the figure took a step forward, directly into the light of both the moon and flickering candle.

Lenore was crippled with fright. This was indeed an old man, but she couldn't see him fully. He was incomplete, an outline, much like a shadow, or, dare she thought, a ghost. Upon gaining her wits, Lenore tossed aside the photo album, stood up and ran out of the room.

Lenore ran into the room where her Aunt Betty was sleeping.

“Aunt Betty, Aunt Betty,” she said, shaking her Aunt awake.

The room around Lenore spun heavily as dizziness set in again.

“Yes, dear?” responded Aunt Betty. “I'm awake.”

Lenore was very light headed at this point, but managed to say, “Aunt Betty, I saw something, I saw -- I saw a ghost.”

Aunt Betty seemed unimpressed.

Lenore continued, but her words were slurred and her legs felt week. “In the living room, Aunt Betty, a ghost...”

The room around Lenore began to spin even faster. She lost consciousness and slumped to the floor.


When Lenore opened her eyes she was back in bed. It was now morning and she could hear the wind outside, whipping through the willow trees. There was a storm brewing off in the distance and faint thunder began to roll. She first focused her eyes on Henry who was back in the corner of the room. She then turned and looked upon Aunt Betty who was sitting by her side

“How are you feeling this morning?” asked Aunt Betty.

“Confused,” sighed Lenore. “Ever since I fell out of that tree, I don't know what's going on.” Lenore rolled her head from side to side and then asked, “Who is Henry? Why is there a ghost in the living room? And where is Able, Aunt Betty? I want to see my brother. Please take me to see my brother.”

“I think its best you come with me,” said Aunt Betty, extending a hand to help lift Lenore out of bed. “I'll show you something that will explain everything.”

Lenore followed her aunt out of the room along with Henry who tagged silently after them.

Lightning danced from the window at the end of the hall, chasing shadows across the floor. After leaving the hallway, Lenore paused to look into the living room. She searched the area of the room where she had seen the ghostly form the night before. At first it appeared empty. Lightning flashed through the front window and suddenly the shape of the old man appeared, sitting in a chair. Lightning flashed again and this time she could clearly see his eyes were fixed upon her.

“There he is again, Aunt Betty!” cried Lenore, “the ghost I saw last night.”

Aunt Betty laid a gentle hand on Lenore's shoulder and then said. “He's harmless, child. Please, just follow me.”

Lenore followed Aunt Betty out the back door, slipping into the morning air with Henry following close behind. Again Lenore's energy seemed to be sapped, but being too afraid to stand still, she continued down the path following her Aunt Betty. The approaching storm rolled their way, off in the distance. The trees around them began to bend as the wind picked up and the first drops of rain began to fall.

Lenore followed Aunt Betty down the weathered path to the old pecan tree where the accident had taken place.

As Lenore approached the tree she suddenly began to feel an overwhelming feeling of fear and dread. She had a terrible feeling that there was something wrong.

Aunt Betty no longer had a pleasant look on her face. She was now looking down at something at the base of the tree. She then turned and faced Lenore with tears in her eyes.

“I'm sorry,” was all Aunt Betty said.

Lenore looked down at what her aunt had been looking at and saw a little marble tombstone. “Able!” she cried out. Eyes flowing with tears, she dropped down to her knees and quickly pulled aside the weeds which covered the name. Expecting to see her brother's name, she was instead shocked to see her own. “Lenore Mayfield, Born November 1930, Died June 1943.”

A jolt of fear raced through Lenore's body, chasing away any clouds she had left in her head. She wanted to deny her death, but the whipping wind raced right through her. She wanted to cry out it was not the truth, but the falling rain, which now passed through her, told her it was so. She knew then it was not some accident from the past that had been causing her confusion. She knew then why everything she did to interact with the word, came as such a chore.

Lenore simply began to weep.


Able Mayfield had witnessed a lot of heartache in his long life. He had buried his sister, Lenore, at a very young age. He had also lost his son, Henry, who had drowned in the river at the bottom of the hill when the boy was only thirteen. His wife, distraught from their son's accident and quick to blame Able for not keeping a closer eye on the boy, left him never to return. Even his beloved Aunt Betty, always there, always loyal, did not live forever, leaving him all alone in the house on the hill.

Able was used to seeing the family ghosts. He was used to the mysterious sounds of footsteps, the closing of doors, the flickering of candles, and the occasional moan. He was used to seeing his Aunt Betty, from time to time, rocking gently in her chair. Even his son Henry could be occasionally found roaming the halls and hiding in the corners. But last night he saw a different ghost, a new ghost, that of a girl. Again this morning he saw her and consequently followed her down the trail to the old pecan tree. He had a suspicion of who she was, but it had been so many years that he was not completely sure.

“Lenore?” called out Able as he looked upon one of the three spirits who had gathered under the old pecan tree. Again, he was familiar with the apparition of his son Henry and his Aunt Betty but he was still not sure that the other ghost was that of his long dead sister Lenore; the same sister who had died falling out of the pecan tree, crashing down right on top of him, knocking him out cold for a couple of days, so many years ago.

Again he called out her name, and this time his sister responded.


Lenore seemed to hear something behind her, something distant, something faint. It was as if someone was calling her name. She turned and through the flashes of lightning off in the distance, she could once again see the outline of the ghostly image of the old man she had seen twice before in the living room. He must have followed her outside, she thought. He must have followed her down the hill. She saw his eyes clearly now, and although they were stricken with age, she knew who he was. She now knew who the ghosts were. She was suddenly filled with peace.

“Hello, Able,” she said, filled with the revelation that the old man was not a ghost at all, but instead her brother, long in years. For a moment, the two stood silently gazing at one another, across dimensions. Feeling the storm growing around them, Lenore turned her eyes to the house on the hill, and then said to her family, “Come on everyone. Let's all go home.”

Continue to the 1st place story

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