Sunday, October 21, 2018

RED MOTHER DEAD: A Merry Halloween Release!


After probably the longest overhaul (between moving 700 miles and plucking at a vampire story...where nothing sparkles except for the floors), the release is finally upon us! And what better way to usher in Halloween than with a new story! 

Below are the gritty details (with a little excerpt at the bottom)! Thank you all for the support! This story holds a special place in my heart. It was the last story started in St. Louis and the first one to finish in Dallas (coincidentally, the next story does take place in Texas...but you'll have to read this one first 😼). 

Undying love, a fear of the dark, and a passion for disinfectant bring forth a new romantic horror!

Brit McKay, faithful (and OCD) housekeeper of the Brennan Estate must battle germs AND the paranormal in order to keep those she loves safe. But are the disturbances truly of a paranormal nature? Or is the new tenant (and Brit's old flame) causing the chaos? 

Jack Brennan has been lost in a state of depression since his wife's death. He seeks refuge at the Brennan Estate...unaware that what he's running from has found him. But is it all in his head, or has something insidious returned from the grave to haunt him? 



“How long do I have to stay here?”
            The morning had been rough. Liam was more than a little scared about school – that much was clear. But Brit could be tough. And as they walked through the front doors of the school, she could sense the kid starting to buckle.  
            “It’s only four hours a day.” She said firmly. “You can handle four hours of school.”
            She hadn’t heard of a part-time kindergarten before, and it seemed a little ridiculous. At the same time, Liam was an anxious kid. Maybe four hours to him felt like ten hours.
            “But not until tomorrow, right? I don’t have to stay here today?”
            She bent down on one knee to talk to him. “You had school in Indiana, right?” He nodded softly. “This is the same situation, just with different kids. No big deal.”
            “What if they don’t like me?”
            He was sucking on his lower lip nervously. “They’ll like you. I like you, and I don’t really like anybody.” He smiled at her remark, then took her hand. This is how kids get to you, she thought, they do cute things to try and get you to forget how full of bacteria they are. “Okay, you’ll start tomorrow. Maybe your dad will have time to drop you off in the morning, too.”
            “And you’ll come too, right?”
            She couldn’t get over his little face. One dimple on his left cheek. Big doe eyes. And his habit of sucking on his lower lip.
            “Yes, I’ll drop you off either way. Okay?”
            She felt his hand grip hers tighter. “Okay.”
            “Liam,” she kept her voice steady – because she needed to address his safety without scaring him. “I need to ask you to keep your window closed and locked at night.” His eyes looked puzzled, so she added, “It’s too cold at night to leave your window open. I don’t want you to get sick.”
            “I just left it open a little bit.” He whispered.
            A cracked window is all a murderer needs, she thought. And after what she had seen on the news, an attack just down the street had her on high alert. “But I need you to leave it closed for now, okay?”
            He stared at her blankly for a moment. “But…my mama talks to me there…”
            She cupped his little face in her hands. “Your mama is always with you in spirit, Liam. But she also wants you to be safe. Just like me, and your dad, and your Aunt Melanie. So, can you please promise me that you’ll keep your window closed?”
            He didn’t look very convinced. Maybe she was being insensitive to his deceased mother. “Liam, if you get lonely at night, I’m just down the hall. So is your dad. But the window must stay closed. I promise you that your mother understands. She wants you to be safe.”
            Brit wasn’t sure how much he understood.
            “Enough talk of safety and windows, right? Let’s get some hot chocolate.”

            His face lit up. The awkwardness of the conversation lifted. She made a mental note to check his window before she went to bed.  


Sunday, August 12, 2018

Nightmare Apartment

(DISCLAIMER: I love ghost stories and I love Halloween - but many a friend I've gained has had something eerie enter their life. This is a story that started nearly a decade ago - and it's one that fortunately has a good ending (so far). And, best of all, it's a great muse for a new book! Do you have any nightmare apartment or housing stories? Please share in the comments!)

I've been an apartment dweller my entire life - which means I've probably heard every kind of noise and smelled every kind of smell possible. Good neighbors truly are what make great apartments. They create the true dynamic of a building. Good history adds great character. Happy portraits that line the common walkways as each tenant finds their own font door - portraits of past social gatherings, block parties, barbecues - they all breed the same effect. Home. Comfort. Safety. 

Bad history, though, can add its very own element.

A few years ago, my old friend Darren (also an apartment dweller) relocated to a tiny Midwestern town and became enchanted by a street of historical buildings and homes that date back to the early 1900s. So enthralled by the quiet tree-lined street, he actually bought a swanky 1000 sq. ft. shotgun style apartment that was inside a towering Victorian. He liked the openness of space, the 10 ft ceilings, the French doors that led to a narrow 3rd floor balcony, and the giant vintage fireplace that made the front of the apartment pop.

The stark white Victorian had been renovated and divided into 12 separate units sometime in the 1960s. The unit Darren purchased hadn't been occupied in over a decade, and had instead been used as storage for the building's former owner. The unit - located at the end of the 3rd floor hallway - had a cozy feeling to it. But it started out as less than welcoming.

After the apartment had been emptied, Darren discovered that every wall had a crucifix nailed to it. "Religious fanatics," was what Darren had been told by both the former building owner and the realtor. Former tenants who seemingly prayed day and night. It was odd, and it gave Darren pause. After all, why would a property owner leave an entire unit unoccupied for over a decade, and instead just use it for storage? That seemed like a waste of money and a waste of space in a building that stood out for its beauty and location.

The lush Victorian stood tall at the end of the street. To this day, superstitions about ghosts and bad luck persist in the area. Longtime locals recounted tales of murder inside the Victorian. Specifically, a former resident had allegedly murdered his bride on their wedding night. It was an eerie and intriguing story, but there were no town or county records of any such tragedy - not inside the Victorian nor in the quiet town.

Being a level-headed man, Darren pushed any reservations he had to the side and bought the unit. After 2 months of remodeling, Darren moved in. But within a week's time, he began to notice strange scratching noises at night. First he assumed it was an animal scratching against the outside of the building. But the noises soon grew louder, as if coming from inside the apartment.

He set mouse traps and eventually adopted a cat, thinking the problem would go away. But the noises persisted. His mother, an avid believer in ghosts and the paranormal, made a 2 hour trip from St. Louis to check out her son's home. One single night in the apartment was all she needed to make an astonishing claim.

"There's a demon in this house."

Darren recalled rolling his eyes at her remark. She had been up investigating the scratches, but like Darren, she couldn't find a physical cause. Or even evidence that anything had been disturbed.

"There's no demons." He said firmly. "It's an old home. There are probably rodents in the walls." He planned to hire an exterminator to investigate. But his mother doubted that was the cause.

"I saw a black shadow." She alleged. "It rolled from the ceiling to the floor, like mist, then picked itself up as if it were taking the form of man, and it walked straight to the back door."

Darren again dismissed her claims. "Too many scary moves."

But when the hired exterminator couldn't find any evidence of rodents (or any other pests) behind the walls, his frustration grew.

Until one day he noticed a strange trail of ash that was sitting in the middle of the apartment. It wasn't pieces of drywall or dirt. He couldn't explain how it got there or why. He swept it up, took the trash out, and the very next morning the trail of ash was back.

One night- the worst night - he woke up to hear what sounded like heavy footsteps walking toward the back door. He turned the lamp on next to his bed, and to his horror watched as the deadbolt on the door that led to that narrow balcony slowly began to unlock...seemingly on its own. As the deadbolt could only be locked or unlocked from inside the apartment, Darren stormed outside and spent the night in his car.

Regardless of the logic he depended on always, the scratching noises just weren't going away. The trail of ash on the floor became a new daily phenomenon. Then there was the self-turning lock... And inevitably, he thought about all those crucifixes that had once lined the walls inside the unit. 

At long last, he called a minister and asked for help. After blessing the apartment, the noises ceased. The ash went away. Doors and locks stayed as they were. The place was quiet. In another year, the noises would return, but Darren wasted no time in calling the minister again. Every year since, he's had the apartment blessed. And each year that has passed has grown calmer and more serene.

This isn't a Hollywood story where a war between heaven and hell grew to a climax, by any means. But it's a great reminder that not all alleged hauntings end with the owner(s) fleeing their home at midnight. Sometimes a haunting can be pieces of the past that simply need to be quieted so that new memories can add new life and depth.

And if you're curious, Darren still lives in that 3rd floor unit. Peacefully.

*I do not own or have copyright to images*

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

The Trader Joe's Experience

A year ago, I uprooted my life for a 10 year career and moved to Dallas. There are lots of things that happen when you have a sudden life shift. Lots of firsts. Lots of new faces. Lots of learning. And, no surprise, lots of stress.

A month ago I had a pretty severe nervous breakdown. In truth, it had been building for some time. The adrenaline high that you get from moving into a completely new environment can only last so long. Eventually, if you're not taking care of yourself and paying attention, you're gonna crash and burn.

Fortunately, I've been bouncing back pretty smoothly (albeit, it's felt like a slow crawl out from under a rock). A large part of my so-far recovery has been because of great support from family and friends, and great advice: starting with getting out more.

We live in an age where technology makes it possible to never leave the house unless you're going to work. I think that can be a detriment to your mental health after a while.

So, breathing in fresh air and accepting my own failings, I stepped back into the world - and in this journey found myself inside a Trader Joe's.

In truth, I don't know what my great expectation was, short of feeling out of place (and I did). I frequent Kroger (or wherever is closest that honors coupons). I was astonished that TJ wasn't the overpriced, hyped let-down I envisioned. And what was especially telling was just how ordinary (and generic) it was.

The food? The selection was minimal and in truth I could get the same at Tom Thumb or Kroger. The size? I could get on board with a smaller store compared to the mega Kroger just a few miles from my apartment. The wine? Alright, I'll admit the price was pretty damn good. The people?

There's the most interesting part. The tribal, familial, clannishness of the sandal'ed (and in one instance, socked) feet, Hawaiian shirt (or sun dress...and maybe a fedora) attire, and that airy tone of mall-girl meets hippie when discussing kale and beet salads. Quirky, friendly, and a little bit flaky. It's the flavorful people that make the Trader Joe's experience worth taking, with the goat cheese coming in at second place.

Am I a TJ convert? Probably not quite, but it's given me the strength to go forward and explore Wholefoods. Food and grocer pretension aside, it's a grand thing to pull yourself out of your own comfort zone and challenge yourself. For some, it may be chasing ghosts. For me, it's encountering food snobs in grocery stores. So far, so good.

On to the next! - Stay tuned for an update from a trip back home + other huge changes!

Friday, October 20, 2017

UPDATE: Red Mother Dead (#RMD)

After many pauses (and pauses), the final product is almost ready to be unleashed! If you missed the blurb on #RMD, click HERE.

And with that, we have a lovely excerpt!


Housekeeper Brit McKay has her hands full with the arrival of a widowed crush, his young son, and a chilling mystery that rattles her meticulous world of order. 

"Jack wanted someone to keep him on his toes. He got that in abundance with Erica. She wanted to make a crazy and colorful life for all of them.” Brit picked up a teddy bear off the floor and tossed it to the stripped bed. “I was worried Jack might do something drastic after she was murdered.”
Brit sat down on the bed, holding the teddy bear in her arms. The Jack she knew from high school was so strong, so determined. But the statement he had made that morning was somber. Shaky. “Can I ask what happened to Erica?”
She saw Melanie look hesitant at first. “I don’t think I ever was able to read all the details.” She pointed to her neck. “The artery was severed. She bled out in seconds, or so they say.”
“God! Did they catch the guy?”
Melanie shook her head. “There was some debate over whether it was some animal attack, or if someone had somehow…” Melanie looked away from her for a moment, as if trying to shake the details out of her head. “Do you know what the worst part of it was? The body went missing right after Jack identified her.”
“They said medical students, maybe. Something about money that can be made from securing dead bodies… Organs or something. I don’t know. I don’t even like thinking about it. I mean, the very idea of body snatchers…just the lowest of the low.”
Poor Jack. No wonder he needed to leave Indianapolis. “I’m so sorry. I had no idea you were carrying this around all this time.”

“It wasn’t my business to tell. Besides, it was Jack I was so worried about. He was so…sure…that Erica wasn’t really dead at first. He scared the hell out of me once. He called me one night, drunk, swearing he saw her. Swearing she had come to him. That she had laid in bed next to him. As if nothing had happened. And in the morning, she was gone. And he was alone again.”


Special note: I had fun writing Brit's story. She's a total neat-freak. Introducing a messy kid to a neat-freak is a special kind of glorious hell! And Brit needed her world rocked...maybe not in the dark way it ended, but it's all a metaphor. Houses are messy. Kids are messy. Life is messy. 
In many ways, this story is about conquering the past (and conquering demons). It's dark, it's funny, and it's very romantic. It's a great departure from Rapture, but there's (hopefully) enough scares to grip the die-hard romantic horror fans out there! And yes, it's a vampire story. Without glitter.  

Stay tuned for more! #RMD #horror #romance #suspense 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Changing Leaves; Turning Pages

I've been in Dallas for nearly 6 months now. The hardest change (and I think I knew it would be) is closing in: no true fall. If you're from the Midwest, chances are you may not like all the seasons, but there is something fantastic about the change of seasons - especially fall.

The colors, the way the wind starts to howl instead of blow... The end of summer and impending death of another year. There are a million metaphors for fall. But I'll use one word to describe it: Enchanting.

As a writer, it's no surprise I get my best material during this time of year. The days grow shorter, and the nights longer - and with all of that comes a mesmerizing sense of story. A need to tell a story, to weave more magic into a season already oozing in it. And why the hell not? I've never questioned why Halloween extinguishes October.

Meanwhile, two short stories later, and I'm struggling to find time to work on edits while juggling a new outline. And that's magic in itself after a long writing dry spell  (I blame the Texas heat).
It's a strange new time in life, that's for sure. How many of you, writers and readers, have experienced a 'changing of leaves,' or turning the page on what was once habitual writing or reading? Plots, character develop, climax...all splattered with enough suspense to drive each page on (just like in life).

It's my first year in Texas. It's already a page-turner.

#RMDexcerptcomingsoon #thanksforfollowing #newreleasesontheway #dontforgettosubscribe #horror #romance #writing #reading

Monday, June 19, 2017

Diving South for Horror

I'm baaaaaack!

It seems like just yesterday I was sitting at my desk in my St. Louis apartment, jotting down notes about people I wanted to interview, places I wanted to visit before I left, and preparations for a new book.

It's strange to say a little over two months ago, I was picking up keys to a new apartment - this one in Dallas. Just like that, my lovelies, life changes. My only regret to date is that my desk is still unpacked, shoved into a corner, and I'm writing this particular entry on top of a bright yellow end table. The show must go on, right? And after a month of definitely not working on edits, here I am: Guiltily still plying through online articles about haunted dolls, and spending too much time watching paranormal evidence videos. #slacker

But marching on into summer, I've got but two writing projects: Red Mother Dead (which I'm hoping will be out late this year), and another series in the works.

Red Mother Dead, if I haven't mentioned it, is the first standalone after the Diary Trilogy ended. And while the very utterance of vampires conjures up images of Rob Pattinson sparkling like he'd been clubbing all night, this story is straight up horror with a large romantic element.

RMD picks up the story of Brit: a single and somewhat lonely housekeeper with major anal retentive tendencies. She's had some bumps in her young life, but keeps a firm hold on the appearance (and cleanliness) of the estate.

Enter Jack, her former high school crush, who is widowed with a young son, and suddenly the daily stability and predictability is squashed...because Jack has brought something with him that casts a darkness over the household. And it's not the sexy Twilight kind.

The influence:

I saw a documentary years ago about allegedly real-life vampires. One tale, in particular, really, really bothered me. It was about a young girl who "died," only she allegedly visited her father afterwards - terrifying him with a decaying face and trying to bite and feed off him. It brought me back to what vampires really are: our worst fears. The end of the story - which brought a village together to essentially destroy the girl's body - folded up neatly with the father mentioning how his deep love for his child had been tainted by what she had become. He swore he would try the rest of his life to find that love again, but the memory of something insidious speaking in the same voice and wearing the same face as his child would always haunt him.

A few pages of character plot-lines later, and RMD was well on its way. But with its own twist.

Stay tuned for excerpts! Thanks for following! You can check out a brief book trailer here (though the book cover is no longer the same). 

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Winter Special: A Heartland Haunting

(For the sake of anonymity, the names of those in this interview have been changed. And the graphics provided do not represent the family's true property. I do not own rights to graphics.)

About 100 miles northeast of St. Louis is a massive piece of land that stretches over 30 acres. It's hilly on one end, while the other is flatter, with a large fishing lake, lots of trees, and 3 vegetable gardens. It's the kind of setting that landowners fantasize about. It's quiet, it's secluded, and the family that lives on the land has roots that date back to the Civil War.

I met Joy through her daughter-in-law, Lacy, who I went to college with for a short time. At the age of 20, Lacy married Joy's son, Will. And after Lacy earned her degree, they moved back to the family homestead.

But unlike many modern living arrangements - where the adult children move back to their parents' house - Lacy and Will actually moved into their own home on the family property.

"There were two original homes on the property." Joy explained. "The original main house burned in a fire around 1902. The gate house was used as the main house for my family until 1960, when another home was constructed."

Of course, Joy's story is anything but simple. A woman of around 65, she and Lacy greeted me one afternoon while visiting St. Louis. Joy dazzled me with her long salt and pepper hair swept back in a low ponytail, her glistening hazel eyes,and a natural tan that was absolutely infuriating. Joy looks better at her age than I do in my 30s - a statement that the blue-eyed, strawberry-blonde, curly-haired Lacy has echoed. But after hearing Lacy's stories about living on that land, I was dying to talk to Joy.

"My parents had me when they were both 16." She began. "They never married, which was highly controversial in those days, but my father's parents were opposed to a marriage. My mother was from Mexico, so after she had me, she returned there and we lived with my grandmother. But growing up, my father would send us letters at least every month, which is how I learned to read in English."

Joy explained that when she was 13, her mother died suddenly. Within a year, her father traveled to Mexico to bring her and her maternal grandmother back with him to Missouri. "It was a strange thing, and when I was a kid, I felt like I had lived two lives - one with my mother, another here." But her face lights up when she talks about her father and first living on the family estate.

"I love the change of seasons. I love snow. I love having a fire in the fireplace. And the hard work never bothered me."

Her grandparents - the ones who opposed her parents' marriage - had also passed away the same year her mother did, which Joy explained was likely why her father was able to collect her. "I'm sure it was bittersweet for him. I'm sure he thought it would be him, me, and my mother that would all be reunited. He was a good man, my father. He loved my mother a lot."

The main house, which was completed in 1961, is the house Joy's father brought her home to. The house she finished out her childhood in, and the house she has lived in with her husband since their marriage in 1976.

"My father passed away in '71, and my grandmother a few years prior. My aunt and uncle lived with us in the main house, and they've been like second parents to me." In fact, Joy's aunt and uncle still live with Joy and her husband. "It's a large house, and my uncle often told me there's always been family living here. Always. I know when I got married, my in-laws thought it was strange that we didn't find our own place, or that my aunt and uncle didn't move out. But it's a lot of land. It's a lot of responsibility. And my heart was invested in this place. I couldn't leave, and my husband liked having a quiet life outside of a busy city."

The main house, in pictures, certainly doesn't look like anything from Gone with the Wind, or any other sweeping epic. It's a beautiful two-story (part ranch/part Victorian influence) with a porch that wraps around from the front to the back. Five bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, and 2 living rooms, but the main attraction (per Lacy) is the kitchen.

"The kitchen is as large as a classroom. The dining table can seat a dozen. And the oven is the original from the 60s. I'm too intimidated to even touch it."

"It's just an oven." Joy countered.

"I wish you'd get a newer one."

"If it ain't broke..."

I liked observing the banter between Joy and Lacy. Stereo-typically, there's usually a flavor of tension between a daughter and mother-in-law, but Joy and Lacy genuinely interact like a typical mother/daughter would. Which is maybe why Lacy won't leave the property. Even after what she's experienced.

"The gate house was originally like a guest house, right?"

Joy nodded. "The property served as a gathering point for my father's massive extended family. He said that the rumor he always heard was his great-grandmother was so terrified of contracting foreign illnesses that she would insist that anyone traveling from outside of Missouri had to stay in the gate house for several days before coming into the main house, just in case they were carrying something."

"How old is it?" I asked.

"The gate house even predates the original home. I'm not 100% how old it is, but we think it was built between 1860 and 1870."

The picture Joy hands me looks like a farmhouse to me - I liken it to the Ulysses Grant cabin (walking distance from my apartment) that has been preserved. But the gate house looks charming. It's one story with a large roof. It has a front door that resembles an English cottage - angular with stained glass at the top. There's a pebbled pathway from the front door to the driveway, and a flower garden sets off the front of the home.

Joy's time in the main house has been idyllic - she has lived most of her life there, raised her only child there, and now continues living peacefully in the house her father took her home to after her mother died. It's her home; it's a piece of her. Every happy memory lives there.

But for Lacy, her time at the gate house has been less idyllic and more of a challenge of wits and nerves. Lacy married Will in 2005. They have a 3-year-old son. Lacy is a 2nd grade teacher while Will helps his great-uncle and father with the land, and also sells insurance.

Moving into the gate house was a perfect memory for Lacy and Will. "The idea of having our own house, and having our own yard...while everyone else we knew was living in a tiny apartment or in their parents' basement...we were incredibly blessed."

It wasn't a palace though. "Joy warned us that we'd have to do a lot of work on it. When we moved in, there was one bathroom, and basically one bedroom. I wanted children, and so did Will, so we worked and saved money so that we could add another bathroom and put up drywall for a second bedroom."

Four years ago, Lacy and Will started heavy remodeling. And for good reason: Lacy was pregnant.

"I went from agreeing to Will that we'd do a little at a time to 'let's get it done NOW.'" Lacy explained. "I wanted a bedroom to put my baby in. I wanted a second bathroom since the bathroom we had only had a shower stall and no tub. And I wanted everything done before the baby came."

With help from Joy and her husband, they were able to add another bathroom off of the kitchen, and also build an addition off the den at the back of the house.

"I had unbelievable anxiety while the add-ons were happening. I can't explain it - everything made me jumpy. I think I convinced myself it was just being pregnant and wanting everything to be perfect."

But halfway through the pregnancy, the feeling got worse. "I was painting the baby's bedroom. We had just found out we were having a boy. We told Will's parents, and they were just over the moon. Joy was baking a chocolate cake in the main house, which is all I wanted to eat. I was home alone, waiting for her to come by so we could eat it." She says with a laugh. "I had the radio on, and it suddenly turned off. The radio was just outside the door to the baby's room. So I went to check it out. It was plugged in. I just thought that the radio was old and flipped it back on. I went back to painting and didn't think much of it."

Lacy stated that Joy came by with the cake, and the weather was nice enough that they ate it outside.

"I didn't even mention the radio to Joy because, again, I thought it was just old. After we ate, I brought the dishes inside. I noticed the music wasn't on anymore. Something caught my eye in the hall, and straight down the hall was the new bedroom for the baby." Lacy smiled nervously, as most people do when they are about to tell you something that they think it utterly crazy. "In the doorway, just lying there on the floor, was the electrical plug for the radio." She rubbed her eyes for a moment and continued. "I know it was plugged in and playing when Joy came over with the cake initially. I know I didn't unplug it. But you can bet I never plugged it in again."

"I knew something was wrong." Joy added. "Lacy's naturally very bubbly, and it had been a good day. And suddenly she just got very quiet. I didn't want to pry. And I remembered being pregnant with Will and having days where I was just petrified. I think I kind of wrote it off as that."

Lacy confessed it was two months before she even said anything to Will. "Little things, I could ignore. Like occasional missing keys. Or the TV suddenly turning on. Because when you're pregnant, I swear, your brain is just not functioning."

But one night, everything changed. And Lacy knew that it wasn't the pregnancy that was messing with her.

"The house is like a little square. When you walk in, directly to the right is our bedroom. Directly in front of you is the hallway that leads to the den, which leads to the baby's room. To the left, the living room, and behind it, the kitchen. It's a very basic layout." Lacy says quietly. "I was about 2 months away from giving birth and was in that really intense nesting period where everything had to be perfect. Joy had given me a quilt for the baby's crib, along with some extra blankets and onesies. I was folding everything and putting things away. And suddenly, I felt like someone was standing right behind me. Like, the hair on my neck was on end, and I had that kind of nauseating feeling that if I turned around, I'd see something that I just didn't want to see."

Lacy takes a swig of tea before continuing, and I can see Joy's face growing uncomfortable. "I called out to Will. I knew he was in bed and heard him getting out from under the covers and walking toward me. I didn't turn around until I heard his footsteps coming down the hall asking if I needed something. As soon as I turned around, there was a shadow figure behind him that just darted from the front door toward our bedroom. All I could do was scream and point, and Will took off down the hall, probably not even knowing what I was yelling about."

"And that's when you told him about what you were experiencing?"

She laughed, nervously. "Oh, I didn't mention the radio. But that night, I know I saw something dart across the hall. I know it. So I did tell him that I thought something was wrong in the house."

"How did he react?"

"He was concerned and worried," Joy chimed in. "Lacy's a very logical person. When Will came up to the house to talk to me about it initially, I could tell he wanted to write it off as Lacy just being extra emotional and tired. But we all know Lacy. She's a very patient woman. Very reasonable. Not someone who scares easily. And my gut told me that if she felt like something was off...maybe something was off."

Lacy described the following weeks, and how Joy would come by in the evenings on days Will worked late (since that's when Lacy felt the most uncomfortable). But it wasn't long before Joy got her own taste of the gate house.

"My son was out of town for his work, and Lacy's due date was coming up. Nothing strange had happened, but it's an eight-minute walk between my house and theirs, and I thought it best to just sit with Lacy. Just in case she went into labor and needed help."

One particular evening - the day before her grandson was born - still haunts Joy. "Lacy was asleep, and I was watching TV in the living room. It was early fall, and the weather was cool enough that we had the windows open. I got up to refill my iced tea, and when I stepped inside the kitchen, there was a strange chill that rolled right over my feet.

"I didn't have many lights on because Lacy was asleep. Just the hall light and a lamp in the living room. But when I felt that chill, I stepped out of that kitchen quickly. In the hall, toward the baby's room, I swear I could hear what sounded like humming. Very low, very soft humming. I thought it had to be Lacy, but she was in her bedroom. So I stepped down the hall toward it. As soon as my hand reached for the light-switch in that baby's room, it stopped. It just totally stopped."

"I can't believe you didn't wake me up!" Lacy playfully nudged her. But I could see the look on Joy's face - the look of uncertainty.

"It was a moment that only lasted seconds. We had all those windows open. I think at the time I just wanted to get you through the pregnancy, so I just tried to believe that the humming was just wind or something."

Lacy gave birth to her son, Foster, the next day. And for a time, it seemed as though any activity that might have happened in the house was over.

"It was really peaceful. When I was in the hospital, Will had a minister bless the house, which just made everyone feel better. Getting home, everything was just perfect. There was nothing strange. Nothing scary. Will and I had the baby in our room for the first couple months, then we moved him into the back bedroom. And truly, I had gotten to the point where I really did just think it had all been in my head."

"Having this baby around was just wonderful." Joy added. "Lacy seemed like her old self again. Will looked happy. You know, I always wanted this huge family, and at the same time, nothing is sweeter than having this one little guy around to love."

But the activity in the house started up again upon Foster's 1st birthday.

"Will was out on the lake with his dad fishing. The baby had fallen asleep on my bed while I was folding clothes, so I put a bunch of pillows around him and went into the living room to finish folding clothes. It was such a normal day. And it was in the middle of the day." I watched Lacy fidget her hands before continuing. "It wasn't midnight. It was as bright and sunshiny as an afternoon can get in October. I went into the kitchen to get something to eat, and I heard Foster. He wasn't fussing or anything. He was just baby babbling. So I thought I'd grab some crackers real quick and grab him before he got out of his pillow fortress.

"But then I heard something that sounded like singing coming from my bedroom. And it was almost like Foster was engaged with whatever - whoever - was singing to him. Like he was cooing. So I dropped my crackers and ran in there. The room was ice cold, but I didn't see anyone. I grabbed my baby and walked up to Joy's."

"At this point, what did your husband and your father-in-law think?" I asked.

"Nobody had lived in the gate house since my grandparents had died." Joy said. "And my husband thought it was a good solution for Will and Lacy. To keep them nearby. And so they wouldn't start out with a massive amount of debt. I think he figured it would be a lot of hard work. But I doubt ghosts or spirits ever entered his mind. It didn't enter mine. I've lived here most of my life, and never did I encounter anything odd until Will and Lacy moved into the gate house."

"Will has had a few things happen to him that shakes him up a little. Nothing directed at him or us, just little things. Like, we have a key rack that hangs on the wall next to the front door. One morning, his keys were gone. We looked for half an hour. Then he opened the door and found them dangling from one of the low branches of a tree. Just dangling there, in plain sight. That was pretty creepy for him."

Joy nodded. "He mentioned that, and the bed incident."

"I'll never forget that as long as I live."

Lacy went on to describe, to date, the most terrifying experience she has endured. "About 6 months ago, Will had the stomach flu. It was pretty bad. So I had walked Foster up to Joy's that night because I didn't want him catching it. It was around 8 o'clock, and by the time I got Foster settled and walked home, it was probably close to 10 or so.

"Even though it's just a few minutes of a walk, I always text Joy so she knows I'm home, and vice-versa. And I planned to grab a blanket out of the bedroom and just sleep in the den, outside of Foster's room. It was August, and it was hot. When I opened that front door, though, there was just a rush of really, really cold air. Not air from the a/c was on, but really chilly air, like the front door was opening to the refrigerator. I closed the door behind me and immediately I had goosebumps. Something drew my attention to the bedroom, so I stepped closer and took a look. There was a woman standing at the side of the bed, leaning over my husband. She had long, dark hair and wore a sort of prairie dress. I couldn't move. I couldn't even breathe. And then, it was like something snapped me out of it. Because my husband was lying there sick, and something was hovering over him - and I had no idea what its intention was.

"So I ran into the bedroom, jumped on top of my husband, and flipped the light-switch on by the bed. The woman was gone...she was just gone, and Will was looking at me like I had lost my mind, and why did I scare him like that. I told him what I saw, and he was absolutely horrified."

"Meanwhile, I've got the baby thinking everything is quiet over there." Joy said, shaking her head.

"Will didn't know I had taken Foster up to the main house. He didn't even know I wasn't home." Joy nodded at Lacy, and for a moment I wasn't sure what twist was coming. "Will swore that I was laying in bed next him, then he said at some point I got up to check if he still had a fever. He said it was so realistic that he could feel my hair on his face when I leaned over to touch his forehead."

"That terrified me." Joy said. The very idea that a spirit had gotten that close to her repulsed her. "I still hope part of what he thinks he experienced was just a dream...because he was so sick."

That was 6 months ago. And in that time, nothing much has happened. "I went online and read an article where if you think you have a ghost, you have to confront it firmly and tell it to leave. Only sometimes they don't. So the article suggested confronting the ghost and stating where it is and is not welcome. And I did that. I went into every room- from Foster's to the bedroom to the bathrooms - and I told her not to go near my son or husband. That she was not welcome."

"And do you think whatever was causing the activity is gone now?"

I watched Joy and Lacy exchange a look before Lacy answered. "I think it knows not to come near Foster. But I don't think it's gone. I still get occasional blasts of chilly air, almost as if someone is just walking down the hall or something. I haven't seen her since that night. And I haven't heard any singing. But it's just a feeling. Yeah, I think she's still in the house."

As for Joy, she's doing her own research. "There's so much we just don't know about our own ancestors. There's so much history to the land. But no one, not even my father, could really give any details other than names. But events. Maybe bad things that have happened here - that's what I want to find out. Maybe finding all that out will help identify what Lacy saw in the gate house. And why it's there."

But life, despite the activity, goes on. Lacy still enjoys teaching. Every morning she takes Foster up to Joy's, where he spends the day until Lacy returns home. It's special time that Joy cherishes. And it's more great memories for the main house.

The gate house, however, and if Lacy and Will continue living there, is still debatable.

"We're not leaving, but we've definitely talked about building a new house." Lacy says. "I'm envious of Joy's memories, and being in the main house, you can feel the love. You can feel the happiness. I want that for my son. I want a home that doesn't have a ghost lurking around." She giggles. "So we'll see. But we won't leave the land, no. We'll stay."

To date, Joy is working with a historian to map out the history of her family's land, including who owned it before them, and what events or tragedies may have brought any paranormal activity into her family's life today. Lacy and Will no longer sleep in their bedroom, but have turned the den into their master bedroom. Lacy says they keep the door to the old bedroom closed and locked. She wonders if the spirit has claimed that empty space, and maybe that is why nothing wild has happened lately. Regardless, she says they will not open the door again.

**Heard of any good ghost stories? Give me a shout:**