The Coal Celler
It was a cold fall day the morning the Hamilton family moved into town. The carriage stopped in front of the Traster house, which had been sitting empty for many years. The old shambles wasn't much to look at with paint peeling from its face and brambles growing along the exterior walls. Even in the daylight, the old house looked creepy.
No one within a five mile radius dared to step foot on the Traster property. A violent murder ten years prior was the cause for alarm.
"Don't live in that house," an old peddler warned. "It's haunted. Haunted I say!"
Mr. Hamilton shrugged off the warning and led the horses around back, with his beautiful wife Emily by his side. The two youngsters, Joshua and Ben were anxious to go exploring. Joshua, a strapping boy of 10, raced his younger brother to the front door.
"Let's go in," he yelled to Ben, who was lagging behind.
"Don't get into trouble," Emily warned. "Your father and I have to attend to the horses. We'll be back shortly. Take this," she said, handing him a kerosene lantern.
Joshua took on the role of authority. "Don't worry mother. I'll watch my brother."
They stood and watched their parents lead the horses to the stables. The minute they were out of sight, Joshua grabbed his brother roughly by the arm.
"Okay, they're gone. Let's go!"
Ben trailed nervously behind. "We shouldn't go in without mother and father. Remember, it's supposed to be haunted."
"Don't be silly," Joshua said, opening the door slightly. He scrunched up his nose in distaste. "It smells funny in here."
Ben stood on the threshold, waiting for an unforeseen monster to eat up his brother. But nothing happened.
"Get in here, silly!" Joshua demanded, dragging his brother by the hand. Ben grabbed his brother's shirt tightly, keeping in close proximity with his steps.
The room was dark and musty, with only a faint light filtering through the kitchen window. Every step they took, the floor creaked under their weight. Joshua squinted in the shadows, horrified at what lay on the kitchen counter. A large butcher knife with dried blood etched on the blade, gleamed in the light.
Ben stifled a scream, and began shaking uncontrollably. "We should go now. Mother and father might need our help."
Joshua turned to him in disgust. "You're such a big baby. Now stop that whining and let's keep looking."
Joshua ignored him and walked through the narrow hallway to the living room, where an old pot belly stove stood in the corner. They continued to explore the house and walked up some rickety old stairs, to a landing, where three small bedrooms fanned out in opposite directions.
"This will be my room," Joshua boasted at the largest of the three. "My ghost and I should have plenty of space."
Ben didn't find this amusing. "I'm telling mother!" he warned.
"I'm telling mother," Joshua mimicked in a high voice. "What a baby!" he laughed all the way downstairs.
Ben ran quickly after him and past the kitchen. But then he stopped short. He turned and stared at the counter. "Where's the knife?" he asked in a panic.
At this, Joshua turned and walked over to his brother. His playful demeanor had suddenly taken on a serious tone. "I don't know. Maybe it dropped to the floor." He knelt down and took a quick look around, but came up empty handed.
"I want to go outside now," Ben begged.
"Not yet," Joshua decided. "We haven't checked out the basement."
Ben held his breath, as his older brother walked through another door which led to a dingy bathroom. In the corner was a tiny closet-sized door, which opened to the cellar. Joshua boldly held the lantern in front. The light revealed crooked old stairs and beyond that, heaps of coal.
"This is nothing but an old coal pile," Joshua grinned, carefully walking down to the bottom. "Come down here," he yelled at Ben. "You've got to take a look at this!"
Ben hesitated, before climbing down. "What?" he asked irritated. "I don't see anything but a big dump down here. And what's that smell? It's disgusting!"
"I don't know, but it smells like it's coming from this pile of coal," he said, kicking the heap with his shoe. An avalanche of coal rolled down to his feet. Then it started to rumble, as more coal cascaded around them.
"Run!" Joshua warned, racing up the stairs and slamming the door shut behind them. They listened at the door, but the noise had stopped.
"What was that?" Ben asked breathlessly.
"I don't know. But whatever it was, we must never speak of it again."
Fall turned into winter and the old Traster house was soon surrounded by a blanket of snow. The old house was heated by the pot belly stove, which sat in the corner of the living room.
On cold winter nights, Mr. Hamilton would order the boys to haul pails of coal up from the cellar, while he read the newspaper by the fire. Joshua and Ben were never too keen on this idea. The cellar scared them. Especially after that frightful afternoon, which they swore never to speak of.
They also avoided speaking to anyone about the noises they heard in the house; the child-like voices that seemed to consume the very walls, and the crunching of snow outside the door, in the still of the night. The boys would lay awake in bed and listen to the house talk. If their parents ever heard these noises, they never said. It was almost as if they didn't hear them.
Joshua and Ben soon became accustomed to very little sleep. But on one particular night, exhaustion took over. As the two slept soundly in their beds, a soft delicate voice penetrated their dreams.
"Rescue me, please! Come join me down below."
Joshua awoke with a start and looked up to find a young child floating above his bed. The apparition looked so real. Joshua leaned over and shook Ben awake. They both stared transfixed on the ghost, as it floated out the bedroom and down the stairs. The boys jumped out of bed and followed close behind, until they reached the cellar door. They watched the apparition fade through the cracks. Joshua opened the door carefully, as the ghost disappeared under the coal pile.
"What should we do?" he asked his younger brother.
"I think we should tell mother and father," Ben replied.
The voice from down below got louder. "Rescue me, please! Come join me down below."Joshua for the first time ever, appeared nervous. "I think we should ignore it and go back to bed."
Just then the coal pile rumbled. Joshua quickly slammed the door shut and ran all the way back to bed, hiding under the covers until morning.
As the winter days wore on and the nights got colder, the coal pile in the basement began to diminish. Joshua and Ben spent most of their evenings stoking the fire and hauling up coal from the cellar. They never stayed down there long, in fear of the child-like ghost.
One evening, after their parents had retired for the night, Joshua convinced Ben to join him in the cellar. Joshua grabbed a shovel and started digging.
"We must find out what haunts this house," he said, wiping the sweat from his brow.
Ben only nodded, shining the kerosene lantern nervously around.
"Hold still," Joshua demanded. "I think I found something."
Ben leaned over, shining the light towards the mysterious source. Joshua bent down, digging through the coal with his bear hands. A shiny metal object was sticking out through the pile. Ben almost screamed, the lantern swaying in his grip. Lying beneath the heap was the bloodied butcher knife.
"How did it get down here?" Ben asked.
"I don't know, but I'm going to find out."
Joshua continued to dig, until his shovel made a clunk sound. "I think I found it."
Ben held the lantern unsteady as his brother dug through the rubble. A glimpse of white bone was soon revealed.
"I think I found a skeleton," Joshua whispered urgently. "Just wait until mother and father find out."
Soon, Joshua had the skeleton exposed. "Will you look at this? It's the skeleton of the child that haunts this house."
Ben didn't share his brother's excitement. "I think we should go now. It scares me."
"What's to be scared of? It's just an old skeleton. Look, its dead," he said kicking the bones with his shoe.
"I don't think you should do that," Ben warned.
Joshua only laughed and leaned in closer. Ben was just about to turn and head upstairs, when he caught a glimpse of a shadow moving. He shone the light towards the bones, but saw nothing. It must be the light playing tricks, he thought.
But then it happened again. The skeleton seemed to wink its hoodless eye. Just then the ground began to quake, the coal rumbling around them. Joshua lost his footing, as the skeleton grabbed his ankle and began to chuckle.
"Come join me down below."The walls started caving in around them, with coal raining down from the ceiling. The boys screamed and flailed, fighting to escape. Soon their screams were drowned out, as the house crumbled to the ground.
The next morning when the old peddler passed by, the only thing that remained was an empty lot.