Stephen Gammell

The haunt.

One time, a preacher went to see if he could put a haunt to rest at a house in his settlement. The house had been haunted for about a decade. Several people had tried to spend the night there, but the haunt would always frighten them away.

So this preacher took his Bible and went to the house—without any hesitation, he went on in, built himself a good fire, and lit a lamp. He sat there reading the Bible. Then just before midnight, he heard some noise starting up in the cellar; walking back and forth, back and forth, over and over again. Then it sounded like someone was trying to scream, but the sound got choked off. Then, he could hear a lot of thrashing and struggling, and finally, all was quiet.

The old preacher took up his Bible once again, but before he could start reading, he heard footsteps coming up the cellar stairs. He sat watching the door to the cellar, and the footsteps drew nearer and nearer. He saw the doorknob turn, and when the door slowly began to creak open, he leapt up and shouted authoritatively, “What do you want?!”

The door closed again soundlessly, as if whoever had opened it was meek and frightened away by the shout. The preacher was also shaken by this, trembling a little, but he finally got around to opening his Bible and reading again. He got up and set the book in his chair and focused on tending the fire.

Then the haunt started walking again and step!—step!—step!—up the cellar stairs. The old preacher sat watching the door, seeing the doorknob turn, and the door came open. The figure that stepped out looked like a young woman. He backed up and said, “Who are you? What do you want?”

The haunt swayed, as if she didn’t know what to do—then she just faded away. The old preacher waited and waited, and when he didn’t hear any more noises, he went over and shut the door. He was sweating and trembling all over, but he was a brave man and he was confident that he would be able to see it through. So he turned his chair to where he could watch and he sat down, waiting.

It wasn’t long before he heard the haunt start up again, slowly—step!—step!—step!—step!—closer, and closer—step!—step!—and it was right at the cellar door as it had been earlier.

The preacher stood up and held his Bible out before him. The knob slowly turned and the door opened wide. This time the preacher spoke more quietly. He said, “In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost—who are you and what do you want?”

The haunt drifted right across the room, straight to him, and took hold of his coat. It was the same young woman, about twenty years old. Her hair was torn, matted, and tangled, and the decaying flesh was rotting off of her face so some of her skull and her teeth had become visible. She was lacking eyes, though an eerie, blue light rested in the backs of her eye sockets. Her nose also appeared to be missing.

She began to speak. Her voice faded in and out, as the wind would during a storm. She told of how her lover killed her for money and she was buried in the cellar. She said if the preacher could dig up her bones and give her a proper burial, she could rest peacefully.

Then, she told him to take the end joint of the little finger from her left hand, and to lay it in the collection plate at the next church meeting—and he’d find out who had murdered her.

And then she said, “If you come back here once more after that, you’ll hear my voice at midnight, and I’ll tell you where my money is hidden, and you can donate it to the church.”

The haunt sobbed like she was exhausted, then sunk down toward to floor, vanishing. The preacher found her bones and buried them in the graveyard.

The next Sunday, the preacher put the small bone in the collection plate, and when a certain man happened to touch it, it stuck to his hand. The man jumped up and rubbed and scraped and tore at that bone, trying to get it off. Then he went to screaming, like he was going crazy, only to begin frantically confessing to the murder he had committed. He was then taken to court for questioning.

After the man was hung, the preacher went back to that house one midnight, and the voice of the ghastly girl told him to duck under the hearthrock. He did, and he found a big sack of money. Yet still, where the haunt had held onto his coat, the print of those bony fingers was burned right into the fabric. The impression never did come out.

Credited to Alvin Schwartz