By Wayne Thoden


Jimmy and Paul were pretty normal kids. . .well, at least Jimmy was.  He was a popular eighth grader at Thompson Jr. High.  He got good grades, seldom got into trouble, and was on the school baseball team:  a regular All-American kid.  Paul, on the other hand, was kind of crazy.

Paul was almost year younger than Jimmy and his friends, even though he was in the same grade. He was sort of short for his age and always felt the need to prove himself to everyone at school, even if it meant getting into trouble—or even getting hurt.

Some of Jimmy’s other friends used to wonder why he hung out with Paul.  But Paul was the first kid Jimmy met when he first moved to the neighborhood, and as Jimmy always said, “Paul’s a good guy once ya get to know him.”  The problem was that most of the other kids never wanted to get to know him.

     Jimmy didn’t have many classes with Paul, so he hung out with his other friends most of the day in school. But he always ate lunch with Paul.

On the last day of school before spring break, Jimmy and Paul were eating lunch together and talking about what they were going to do over the break.  Paul was in the mood for adventure, and he talked Jimmy into taking a little trip with him after school that day.  It was one time when Jimmy should have said no.

“Hey Jimmy, wanna check out the old Miller house tonight after school”? Paul asked as he stuffed a handful of potato chips in his mouth.

“Why? What for?” answered Jimmy, acting bored with the suggestion.
“I don’t know, just to see what’s inside.” 

“No way, dude, that house has been like empty for over seventy years and it’s supposed to be haunted,” Jimmy said, finishing off his carton of milk.  
“Yeah, right, and you believe that?” Paul asked in his usual wise-ass tone.
“No but...”

Before Jimmy could finish his statement, Paul began to taunt him.
“You’re scared, ya wussy!” 

“No I’m not, I just don’t think there’s anything there anymore,” snapped Jimmy. 

Paul leaned across the table and started making clucking sounds, bobbing his head and mimicking a chicken.

“I’m not a chicken, Paul,” screeched Jimmy as he shoved his friend back.
“Then let's go.”

“Fine,” conceded Jimmy, trying to sound as if it was no big deal.

“I’ll meet you in the field in front of the Miller house at seven o’clock tonight.”

“Okay, I’ll be there.”

Jimmy walked home from school that day with an odd feeling in the pit of his stomach.  He didn’t feel right about going to the old Miller house.  He wouldn’t admit it to Paul, but he was kind of scared to go there.  Every time he walked past that house, he felt as if things kind of slowed down, like he was walking through three feet of mud and never getting anywhere.  He never told this to anyone.  He thought they’d probably think he was crazy.  He just tried to stay clear of the place.



Jimmy sat at the dinner table playing with his food and thinking about the house.

“Is anything wrong, Jimmy?” asked his mother. “You’ve hardly touched your supper.”

“No, Mom, nothing’s wrong. I guess I’m just not that hungry.”

It wouldn’t have mattered if Jimmy were hungry; he still wouldn’t have been able to eat supper.  His stomach was tied up in knots because of all the thoughts that were running through his head. He was a nervous wreck.

Geeze, he thought, if I look at that stupid clock one more time, I think I’ll go crazy!  Maybe I’ll watch some TV. 

Flopping down on to the couch, he picked up the remote control and clicked the TV on.     
“Oh great, Poltergeist!  That’s all I need to see right now.”


“I’ll check out what’s on MTV.”

As soon as Jimmy turned to the next channel, his father came in and grabbed the remote. 

“Get this junk off the TV,” his father said and switched to the evening news.

Jimmy got up off the couch, walked to his room, and popped a CD into his CD player.  Maybe listening to some music would get his mind off that stupid house.  At least it would kill some time. 
Jimmy messed around in his room for a while, then glanced at the clock and realized it was time to go.  The music had served its purpose and taken his mind off the trip for a little while. Jumping out of bed, he quickly gathered some things that he thought he would need. 

“Hum,” he mumbled, speaking quietly to himself, “flashlight, jacket in case it gets cool, knife, last will and testament. . .”  He chuckled.

After packing a few essential items, he ran down the steps and shouted to his mother.

“Mom, I’m going out for a while.”

“Okay, Jimmy, but get in early.  I don’t want you running around the streets after dark.”

“Okay,” replied Jimmy, “I’ll be sure to walk around the streets.”

“Very funny,” answered his mother with a wry smile.

Grabbing his coat, he rushed out the back door.  He checked his pockets to be sure that the flashlight and pocketknife were still there. 

Why am I rushing? he thought to himself.  I don’t even want to do this!  Hey, maybe the faster I get there, the faster I’ll get out of there and back home.

Deep down—very deep down—Jimmy actually did want to go to the old house.  He wanted to prove to himself that there was nothing weird about the house, and that those strange feelings he had whenever he walked past the place were really nothing at all.  But as Jimmy walked down the street, he felt unsure.

I got a bad feeling about this, he thought as he nervously fidgeted with the zipper on his coat.

He cut through Peter Wilson’s yard, which led him right to Chambers Street and the field where he would meet Paul.  As he approached the field, he could see the Miller house.

It was a dark, shadowy place at all hours of the day.  The old trees around it blocked the sun during the day.  In the evening, after sunset, was the worst.  It really looked spooky then.  Later at night, after the streetlights came on, you could hardly see the house at all.  For some reason, the streetlight directly in front of the old Miller house never worked.

Jimmy looked at his watch.  It read five minutes to seven.  He walked over to a large oak tree and waited for Paul. 

“What’s taking him so long?” he whispered.

BOO!” shouted Paul, as he jumped up behind Jimmy and grabbed him by his shoulders.

Jimmy yelled, and quickly turned around.  “What the hell is wrong with you?”

Paul was bent over laughing.

Jimmy’s heart thumped the air right out of his lungs.  He wanted to punch Paul, but he held back his anger, knowing that Paul was just an idiot at times.

“Dude, I got you good,” laughed Paul.

“Yeah, and you almost got my fist in your face butt-wad. Now shut up before someone hears us.”
Jimmy wondered again why he was doing this. He thought of ten different ways he could have gotten out of coming here with Paul. But Paul had a way of making him do things he didn’t want to do.  Maybe he felt bad for Paul because he didn’t have too many friends.  Whatever it was, it was too late to back out now.
“Let’s get this over with,” said Jimmy as he took a deep breath and turned to look at the house they were about to invade.
The house had an eerie, out of place look to it, like it was built for some old Dracula movie and just left deserted when the filming was done. 
Of course, there were many stories about the house.  Legend had it that Carl Miller, the man who lived in the house over eighty years ago, had a small daughter.  She was very sick, and one day while her father was out getting her medicine, she died in the house all alone in her room.  Carl Miller was so distraught that he hung himself in the house the next day.  Their bodies weren’t found until weeks later.   He left a suicide note that said he would never let his daughter be alone again.
For years, there have been mysterious disappearances of children in the area.  A rash of these disappearances had occurred about every twenty years.  People still say they hear noises coming from the house, or see a light on inside the house every once in a while.  There must be a hundred such stories about the place, but Jimmy hadn’t heard anything recently, so maybe that’s all they were. . .just stories.

“How we gonna get in, Paul?”  Jimmy whispered as he knelt beside his friend.

“I think I saw a broken window in the back of the house.” Paul looked unsure of himself.

“You think?  You don’t know?”  Jimmy asked, throwing his hands in the air in an ironic gesture.

“Well, I thought I saw one that was broken out the other day, but I’m not sure.”

“You make great plans, Paul.  Did ya think anything out?”
“No, I guess I didn’t.  Now come on let’s just go back and look.”

Jimmy didn’t want to walk around to the back of the house.  There was an old cemetery back there that gave him the creeps.  He wasn’t going to let Paul know that though.  He didn’t want to hear Paul’s chicken imitation again.

Jimmy followed Paul reluctantly, crouching low as they went along side the house and into the back yard.  Paul seemed to really be enjoying the adventure, acting like he was James Bond or somebody, but he looked more like Ace Ventura to Jimmy.
As they approached the edge of the cemetery, Jimmy could feel his heart beating faster.  He reached up to wipe the cold sweat from his forehead. 

A disgusting odor hit them the minute they set foot in the cemetery.  It was like walking into a wall of stink, like there was an invisible force field holding it inside the gate.

As they proceeded through the cemetery, Paul looked down to see a thin cold mist hovering over the ground.  It appeared to be slowly crawling through the cemetery, encircling the decrepit headstones, but it never ventured past the surrounding fence.  The moon was full and reflected eerily off the mist.  The grass was overgrown, and many of the headstones were broken or pushed over. The ones still standing were so old you could hardly make out the writing on them. The whole scene was too weird.  It reminded Jimmy of a really cheesy horror film from the sixties.
Nobody ever visited the cemetery, except for the caretaker, Mr. Evens, and he looked as old as the cemetery.  His hands were all bent and disfigured from years of hard work and the arthritis that had reformed them.  They looked like knotted up branches of a withered old tree.  His face was drawn and pale, and you couldn’t tell where one wrinkle started and another one ended.  He walked so slowly that one wondered how he could take care of himself, much less the cemetery.  He was always warning kids to stay away from the house.  Kids were as afraid of him as they were of the house, so nobody ever went there.

They finally reached the back of the house.  Even though the walk through the cemetery was no more than fifty yards, it felt like it took forever.  Jimmy breathed a sigh of relief.  The relief was short-lived though as he realized that they were actually going to go inside this place.  He was hoping there were no windows at all on the back of the house, or at least that they were nailed up so tight you would need a wrecking crew to get in.

Jimmy looked at the house; he had never been this close to it before.  The light from the moon was bright enough for him to see that the house was in bad condition.  The shutters were hanging off of the windows, the wood was rotted in spots, and many of the old wooden shingles were missing.

They probably don’t even make shingles like that anymore, he thought.

As he examined the house, he noticed the broken window.  Paul was right.

Paul crouched down and started to feel around for something, and Jimmy wondered what he was looking for.  Then Paul stood up with what looked like a stick in his hand and started to use it to clear away the broken glass in the window frame.  Jimmy nodded to himself, never considering that Paul was smart enough or even cared enough to do that.  Paul finished clearing the glass and handed the stick to Jimmy.
“Here, take this,” he said.

As Jimmy grabbed the stick, it passed through a beam of moonlight that was shining through a hole in the roof’s awning.  He saw that it wasn’t a stick at all; it was a doll’s leg.

He looked at the leg closely.  It seemed to be very old, and it gave him a strange but sad feeling.  Jimmy had a weird vision of a little girl playing with a doll.  Her hair was pulled back into a single braid, and she wore a blue dress with red ribbons laced through the collar and tied into a bow.  The picture was so clear in his mind.

“Jimmy, what’s wrong, dude?”  Paul asked as he grabbed Jimmy’s shoulder and shook him back to reality.
“Nothing.  Come on, let’s. . .ah, let’s just get moving and get this over with.”

Paul shook his head, amused at his friend’s reluctance.  Then he turned to the window and started to climb through.  There was a crackling sound when his foot stepped down onto the broken glass that had fallen on the floor inside the house.  Jimmy nervously followed him.  He could actually hear his own heart beating. 

“I can’t see anything,” said Paul. 

Jimmy was so tense he had forgotten about the flashlight in his pocket.

“Hold on,” he said.  Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out the flashlight and turned it on.  “Aren’t ya glad one of us has a brain?” he joked, attempting to ease the tension.

“Yeah, Mr. Brains, so how come ya waited until now to turn the stupid thing on?” 

“Hey!  At least I brought it.” 

The house had a funny smell inside, but not like the smell in the cemetery.  This was different.  It was a really old smell; the kind of smell you got when you opened a box of stuff that your grandparents had stored in their attack for the last thirty years.

Just standing in the house made Jimmy feel like he was in a different time.  Paul was right.  The place was full of stuff.  It was as if somebody lived there, but had just gone away on vacation or something.  The house was beautiful inside, but kind of scary too. 

They started their search through the house, slowly following the beam of the flashlight and keeping low so that no one would see them through the windows.  Not that anyone would see them; hardly anyone ever came past the house.  And besides, most of the windows were boarded up.  Jimmy started to wonder why that one window in the back was not boarded up and why everything in the house appeared undisturbed.


“What was that?” asked Jimmy.

Both boys squatted down quickly, and Jimmy turned the flashlight off.  They both froze in their positions.  Neither of them made a move or a sound for several minutes.  Jimmy wanted to whisper to Paul, but the words couldn’t find their way out.  Paul was the first to break the silence.

“Maybe it was a cat or something,” he whispered.

“Yeah, with size twelve shoes,” answered Jimmy. “I don’t hear it anymore, do you?” 


Slowly, the boys stood up.  Jimmy, almost afraid to look, turned the flashlight back on.  He was anticipating some horrible monster or evil demon.

“Blah,” Paul whispered loudly as he grabbed Jimmy from behind, again trying to scare him.

Jimmy quickly turned, still holding the doll’s leg.  He swung around, hitting Paul in the arm.  A small splinter of glass was wedged in the end of the leg.  It tore Paul’s shirt and gashed his arm open.

“Ouch!” Paul said, grabbing his arm.  “What did ya do that for?”

“Why’d ya try to scare me again?” Jimmy asked, his jaw tightening.  If looks could kill, Paul would be gone.  “Now knock it off, or next time, I’ll kick your ass.”

Paul was kind of surprised at Jimmy’s reaction.  Jimmy had always put up with his jokes before, but Paul decided it was best not to try to scare him anymore.

Jimmy took out a bandanna he kept in his pocket, wrapped it around Paul’s arm, and said, “You’ll live.”

When the boys began to look around again, they found themselves in a huge dining room.  Jimmy thought it was kind of cool.  He didn’t have a dining room in his house; they just ate in the kitchen.  There was a very large oak table in the middle of the room.  In the center of the table sat a silver candelabrum with place settings all around it. 

“Wow!  Check this out!” said Paul.  “This is awesome!”

“Yeah, but why is it set up like someone still lives here after all these years?” asked Jimmy.  “Don’t ya think it’s kind of weird?  And how come the outside of this place looks like crap and the inside looks so nice?  How come nobody ever robbed it, or trashed it, at least?”

“You mean like this?” Paul said, then quickly swiped his arm across the dining room table, knocking off some of the dishes in the process.

Jimmy grabbed Paul by the arm and pulled him away from the table.  “What did ya do that for?”
“Why not?  Who’s gonna know?”

“You’re an idiot sometimes, Paul.  Ya don’t gotta break stuff all the time.”

Paul pulled away from Jimmy.  “Well, I did.  So what?” he replied in a casual tone, feeling a little hurt by his friend’s words.

“Just shut up before somebody hears us.  I don’t need to get grounded,” said Jimmy.
“Who’s gonna hear us?  The ghosts?”

Jimmy turned around and shined the flashlight on his own face from below his chin, and in his best Boris Karloff voice, he answered, “Yes, the ghosts.”

The comical banter mended their tiff, and they continued to explore the house.  They walked through the dining room into a hallway that led to a large curved staircase.  The staircase was ornately carved from oak and had two large lion’s heads at the end of the banisters.
“Let’s see what’s upstairs,” suggested Paul

They started to make their way up the steps.  With each step they took, an uncomfortable creaking sound came from the wood. 

“You definitely couldn’t sneak up on anyone in this place,” whispered Jimmy.

As they reached the top of the steps, Jimmy suddenly stopped.  Reaching back, he grabbed Paul’s shirt to stop him as well.

“Did you hear that?” he asked, squeezing Paul’s arm as he spoke.

“Yeah, it sounded like a little kid,” said Paul.  “I don’t think I like this.  Maybe we should get outa here.”  

“Wait a minute, Paul.  What if it is a little kid?  What if they’re hurt and need help or something.

“I’m not sure I want to find out,” said Paul.  “I think we should get outa this place.”

“Now look who’s the chicken.”  Jimmy knew that would get Paul fired up.

“Bite me, Jimmy!  I ain’t no chicken.  If you’re going, then so am I.”

The two walked slowly down the hall, trying not to make any noise, but the aged floorboards refused to be silent.

Near the end of the hall was a small bedroom.  The nearer they got to it, the more they realized that the voice they heard was coming from this room.  And it was indeed the voice of a child.

There was a faint flickering light coming from the bedroom, so Jimmy turned off his flashlight.  The boys crouched down in the hallway, trying to work up enough nerve to go into the room.

Without warning, a child’s ball rolled out of the room.  Both boys stood up quickly and leaned back hard against the wall, as if they wouldn’t be noticed that way.

As they stood there motionless, a little girl holding a doll with one leg walked out of the room.  Jimmy’s jaw dropped slightly as he realized it was the same little girl he had pictured in his mind.  She calmly looked up at the two boys.

“Hello.  Are you going to be my new friends?” she asked.

Jimmy heard a dripping sound and looked at Paul.  He had peed in his pants.

“Ah, sh. . .sure,” answered Jimmy.  “We. . .we’ll be your friends.”

“Great!  We can play after dinner,” she said, then walked over to Jimmy and extended her hand toward him.  “You found my dolly’s leg,” she said. 

Jimmy handed her the leg in an almost hypnotic manner.  She thanked him then turned to walk back into the room.  She passed right through the wall, not bothering to use the door.

Jimmy grabbed Paul, who was now a shivering pathetic mess, and started to run toward the steps.
“Come on!  Let’s get outa here.  This place really is haunted!” he said.

As they ran, they could hear the little girl behind them.

“Where are you going?  Don’t you want to be my friends?”

Jimmy was just about to turn his flashlight on when the lamps that lined the stairwell suddenly lit up.

“Holly crap!” yelled Jimmy.  “Did you see that?”

“Yeah, just move your butt, will ya?” said Paul, who had apparently recovered from his temporary lack of self-control.

They flew down the steps, rounded the corner into the dining room, and came to a screeching halt.  Frozen with fear, the two boys just stood there, their eyes wide open and their jaws hanging open.
The dinning room table was set.  The candelabrum was lit and there were no broken dishes.  The little girl from upstairs was now, somehow, sitting at the table with three other children and a man.  Each child was dressed in clothes from a different time period: one girl was wearing a tie-dyed T-shirt and bell-bottom jeans; another girl had on a poodle skirt, bobby socks and a sweater; and the little boy was wearing knickers, lace-up boots and a frilly white shirt.

The man at the table turned and looked at the boys. 

“Paul, you shouldn’t have broken my dishes, that wasn’t very nice,” he said.

“Yes, not very nice.  You mustn’t anger Mr. Miller,” said the little boy.

Jimmy turned and began to run to the window he now wished they had never entered through.  “Come on!  Let’s go, now,” he shouted.

He quickly climbed through the window, and then turned to help Paul.  Paul started to climb out, but something seemed to be pulling him back in. 

“Jimmy help me!  Don’t let go,” Paul pleaded.

Jimmy held on to Paul tightly, trying to pull him through the window with all his might.  Paul’s body was stretched straight out like a flag, but Jimmy couldn’t see anything holding him. 



“Don’t let go, Jimmy!  Please, don’t let go!” cried Paul. 

Then someone grabbed Jimmy from behind and pulled him back.
“Let ‘em go, boy.  She only needs one of ya,” a voice from behind spoke.

Jimmy tried to hold on to Paul, but could not.  He fell to the ground still clenching a button from Paul’s shirt. Standing up, he quickly turned to see the old caretaker, Mr. Evens. 

“Paul, he’s still inside,” said Jimmy in a panicked voice. 

“Yep, nothin’ we can do bout that.  He’s part of the house now,” said the old man.  “I warned all you kids not to go near the house.” 

“What do you mean he’s part of the house now?” cried Jimmy.  “We’ve gotta get him out of there!”

The old man grabbed Jimmy by the shoulders and shook him.  “Now listen to me, boy, there ain’t nothin’ you can do.  Ya hear me?  If you go back in there, she might take you too.  She just needed a new friend that’s all——a new friend.”

Jimmy pushed the old man’s hands away.  “Your crazy,” he said, then turned to go back inside.  “What the. . .”

Jimmy stopped in mid sentence.  He looked at the house.  The shutters were hanging straight.  The missing shingles were reforming and repairing themselves, and the window was starting to reappear.  He quickly looked inside to see if he could find Paul.  He saw him standing just inside the window, looking out at him and reaching for him.

“Paul!” Jimmy shouted.  He reached his hand out and grabbed Paul’s.  “No Paul!  No, no, no. . .”

Jimmy sat up in bed, drenched with sweat. 

“No, no, no. . .” he shouted, then stopped, confused for a minute.  He finally realized he had been dreaming and laid back down with a sigh of relief.  “Wow!  What a nightmare!  I gotta tell this to Paul.”   
As he turned over to go back to sleep, he felt something under the pillow.  “What the heck is this?” he said aloud, reaching over to turn on the light. It was the button from Paul’s shirt.  Jimmy suddenly felt sick.  Was it a dream? he wondered. 

“Wait a minute,” he said, rubbing his eyes, “this isn’t my room.”  Then he heard a noise and looked over to the bedroom door. A child’s ball rolled into the room.  The little girl walked in holding her doll.

“Hi, Jimmy.  We can play now.”