A Texas Ghost Story
S. E. Schlosser
The girl hurried through her schoolwork as fast as she could. It was the night of the high school dance, along about 70 years ago in the town of Kingsville, Texas. The girl was so excited about the dance. She had bought a brand new, sparkly red dress for the dance. She knew she looked smashing in it. It was going to be the best evening of her life.
Then her mother came in the house, looking pale and determined.
"You are not going to that dance," her mother said.
"But why?" the girl asked her mother.
"I've just been talking to the preacher. He says the dance is going to be for the devil. You are absolutely forbidden to go," her mother said.
The girl nodded as if she accepted her mother's words. But she was determined to go to the dance. As soon as her mother was busy, she put on her brand new red dress and ran down to the K.C. Hall where the dance was being held.
As soon as she walked into the room, all the guys turned to look at her. She was startled by all the attention. Normally, no one noticed her. Her mother sometimes accused her of being too awkward to get a boyfriend. But she was not awkward that night. The boys in her class were fighting with each other to dance with her.
Later, she broke away from the crowd and went to the table to get some punch to drink. She heard a sudden hush. The music stopped. When she turned, she saw a handsome man with jet black hair and clothes standing next to her.
"Dance with me," he said.
She managed to stammer a "yes", completely stunned by this gorgeous man. He led her out on the dance floor. The music sprang up at once. She found herself dancing better than she had ever danced before. They were the center of attention.
Then the man spun her around and around. She gasped for breath, trying to step out of the spin. But he spun her faster and faster. Her feet felt hot. The floor seemed to melt under her. He spun her even faster. She was spinning so fast that a cloud of dust flew up around them both so that they were hidden from the crowd.
When the dust settled, the girl was gone. The man in black bowed once to the crowd and disappeared. The devil had come to his party and he had spun the girl all the way to hell.
Don't Turn on the Light
retold by S.E. Schlosser
She commandeered the room in the basement of her dorm as soon as she realized she would have to pull an all-nighter in order to prepare for tomorrow’s final exam. Her roommate, Jenna, liked to get to bed early, so she packed up everything she thought she would need and went downstairs to study . . . and study . . . and study some more.
It was two o’clock, when she realized that she’d left one of the textbooks upstairs on her bed. With a dramatic sigh, she rose, and climbed the stairs slowly to her third-floor dorm room.
The lights were dim in the long hallway, and the old boards creaked under her weary tread. She reached her room and turned the handle as softly as she could, pushing the door open just enough to slip inside, so that the hall lights wouldn’t wake her roommate.
The room was filled with a strange, metallic smell. She frowned a bit, her arms breaking out into chills. There was a strange feeling of malice in the room, as if a malevolent gaze were fixed upon her. It was a mind trick; the all-nighter was catching up with her.
She could hear Jenna breathing on the far side of the room—a heavy sound, almost as if she had been running. Jenna must have picked up a cold during the last tense week before finals.
She crept along the wall until she reached her bed, groping among the covers for the stray history textbook. In the silence, she could hear a steady drip-drip-drip sound. She sighed silently. Facilities would have to come to fix the sink in the bathroom…again.
Her fingers closed on the textbook. She picked it up softly and withdrew from the room as silently as she could.
Relieved to be out of the room, she hurried back downstairs, collapsed into an overstuffed chair and studied until six o’clock. She finally decided that enough was enough. If she slipped upstairs now, she could get a couple hours’ sleep before her nine o’clock exam.
The first of the sun’s rays were beaming through the windows as she slowly slid the door open, hoping not to awaken Jenna. Her nose was met by an earthy, metallic smell a second before her eyes registered the scene in her dorm room. Jenna was on top of her bed against the far wall, her throat cut from ear to ear and her nightdress stained with blood. Two drops of blood fell from the saturated blanket with a drip-drip noise that sounded like a leaky faucet.
Scream after scream poured from her mouth, but she couldn’t stop herself any more than she could cease wringing her hands. All along the hallway, doors slammed and footsteps came running down the passage.
Within moments other students had gathered in her doorway, and one of her friends gripped her arm with a shaking hand and pointed a trembling finger toward the wall. Her eyes widened in shock at what she saw. Then she fainted into her friend’s arms.
On the wall above her bed, written in her roommate’s blood, were the words: “Aren’t you glad you didn’t turn on the light?”
A West Virginia Ghost Story
The old storage sheds along the tracks were abandoned shortly after the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad was built, and it wasn't long before the poor folk of the area moved in. The sheds provided shelter - of a sort - although the winter wind still pierced through every crevice, and the small fireplaces that the poor constructed did little to keep the cold at bay.
A gentle, kindly woman named Jenny lived alone in one of the smaller sheds. She had fallen on hard times, and with no family to protect her, she was forced to find work where she could and take whatever shelter was available to someone with little money. Jenny never had enough to eat and in winter her tiny fire barely kept her alive during the cold months. Still, she kept her spirits up and tried to help other folks when they took sick or needed food, sometimes going without herself so that another could eat.
One cold evening in late autumn, Jenny sat shivering over her fire, drinking broth out of a wooden bowl, when a spark flew from the fire and lit her skirts on fire. Intent on filling her aching stomach, Jenny did not notice her flaming clothes until the fire had burnt through the heavy wool of her skirt and began to scorch her skin. Leaping up in terror, Jenny threw her broth over the licking flames but the fluid did nothing to douse the fire. In terror, Jenny fled from the shack and ran along the tracks, screaming for help as the flames engulfed her body.
The station was not far away, and instinctively Jenny made for it, hoping to find someone to aid her. Within moments, her body was a glowing inferno and Jenny was overwhelmed by pain. Her screams grew more horrible as her steps slowed. She staggered blindly onto the tracks just west of the station, a ball of fire that barely looked human. In her agony, she did not see the glowing headlight of the train rounding the curve, or hear the screech of the breaks as the engineer spotted her fire-eaten figure and tried to stop. A moment later, her terrible screams broke off as the train mowed her down.
Alerted by the whistle, the crew from the station came running as the engineer halted the train and ran back down the tracks toward poor dead Jenny, who was still burning. The men doused the fire and carried her body back to the station. She was given a pauper's funeral and buried in an unmarked grave in the local churchyard. Within a few days, another poverty-stricken family had moved into her shack, and Jenny was forgotten.
Forgotten that is, until a month later when a train rounding the bend west of the station was confronted by a screaming ball of fire. Too late to stop, the engineer plowed over the glowing figure before he could bring the train to a screeching halt. Leaping from the engine, he ran back down the tracks to search for a mangled, burning body, but there was nothing there. Shaken, he brought his train into the station and reported the incident to the stationmaster. After hearing his tale, the stationmaster remembered poor, dead Jenny and realized that her ghost had returned to haunt the tracks where she had died.
To this day, the phantom of Screaming Jenny still appears on the tracks on the anniversary of the day she died. Many an engineer has rounded the curve just west of the station and found himself face to face with the burning ghost of Screaming Jenny, as once more she makes her deadly run towards the Harpers Ferry station, seeking in vain for someone to save her.
Excerpted from Spooky Pennsylvania
retold by S.E. Schlosser
She lurks below the surface of the lake near Presque Isle, her lithe form forever swimming through the weeds and the mire. Pale and green of skin, her yellow eyes shine luminously in the dark, and her thin long arms wrap themselves around the unwary, while foul-green pointed teeth sink into soft flesh and sharp nails at the end of long bony fingers stroke you into the deepest sleep there is. She is called by many names, but to sailors of Lake Erie, she is known as the Storm Hag.
The creature is a sea witch, an evil Jenny Greenteeth who summoned the storms and pulled shipwrecked sailors down into her evil embrace to live with her forever at the bottom of the lake. Sometimes she waits until the calm right after the storm to attack. When the sailors relax their guard, lulled into thinking that the danger had passed with the storm, the Storm Witch bursts forth from the dark waters of the lake, spewing forth lightening and wind like venom. And the ship will vanish - never to be seen again.
There is only one warning before she strikes. If you listen closely, you can hear her singing against the harsh wind and the thrashing waves:
"Come into the water, love,
Dance beneath the waves,
Where dwell the bones of sailor-lads
Inside my saffron cave."
If you can, flee immediately, for the Storm Witch is right beside you. If you cannot, then pray to your God for mercy, for the Storm Witch will grant you none. Her whirlpool will suck down your ship, and her long green arms will lovingly stroke you into the depths of the lake, where she will feast on your body among the weeds.