Elsa gave a quick nod. “Girls like that can sense things the rest of us miss. When that happens, it might be wise to believe them.”

She left then, retreating quietly down the hall.

At first, I dismissed what she told me. Maggie was my daughter, not hers. And I wasn’t about to pretend to believe made-up things just to appease her. But that night, I couldn’t stop replaying Elsa’s words in my head.

Especially when the noises returned.

Not just the usual sounds of a house settling in for a long summer night, but the dreams as well. The bumps and thumps of doors, cupboards, closets opening and closing. The cacophony filled my sleep, silencing itself only when I woke a few minutes before midnight.

Sitting up in bed, I looked to the bedroom door, listening for the slightest hint the noises were real. All I heard were sleep-heavy breaths from Jess and a chorus of crickets in the woods outside.

I immediately thought of Maggie and how Elsa Ditmer had—quite rightly—pegged her as sensitive. It dawned on me that her advice about believing Maggie in reality meant seeing things through my daughter’s eyes. To understand that, even though I knew these were the sounds of a house settling, they could seem quite menacing to someone so young. And if they were keeping me awake, then it was possible Maggie also couldn’t sleep. Which is why I decided it wouldn’t hurt to check on her.

Sliding out of bed, I crept out of the room and down the hallway to Maggie’s room. As I approached, I saw the door—which, at Maggie’s insistence, had been left open after we kissed her goodnight—suddenly close with a soft click.

So she was awake.

I opened the door a crack, expecting to see Maggie climbing back into bed, preparing to read one of her picture books by moonlight. Instead, I saw that she was already in bed, covered by her sheets from toe to shoulder. She was also, it seemed, fast asleep. By this point, both Jess and I could recognize when she was faking sleep. The shallow breaths. The flickering eyelids. The exaggerated, stone-heavy stillness of her limbs. This was the real deal, which prompted a single, worrisome question: Who had just closed her bedroom door?

The girl. The one Maggie said she saw.

That was my first thought. A crazy notion, immediately dismissed. There was no girl. As for the bedroom door, that had closed on its own, be it from a draft or from loose hinges or from the simple fact that it had been hung wrong when it was installed all those decades ago.

But then I looked to the armoire. The place where Maggie said this imaginary girl had disappeared.

Both of its doors were wide open.


The armoire doors are closed.

No surprise there. It probably hasn’t been opened in twenty-five years.

What does surprise me is that someone—my father, I assume—has nailed the doors shut with a pair of two-by-fours. The boards crisscross the split between doors, giving it a distinctly forbidden look. Like a haunted house on a trick-or-treat bag.

Appropriate, I guess.

Also ridiculous.

Then again, the same could be said of my choosing to sleep in my old bedroom. There are plenty of other places where I could set up camp while I’m here. My parents’ old bedroom being the largest and, presumably, the most comfortable.

But it’s this room that speaks to me after I haul my luggage upstairs. No. 4 on the wall of bells in the kitchen. I’d like to think that’s due to familiarity. In truth, I suspect it’s simply because the room is nice. I can see why my dad chose it be my bedroom. It’s spacious. Charming.

Except for the armoire, which is the opposite of charming. A hulking, ungainly thing, it dominates the room while also feeling like it belongs somewhere else. The parlor. The Indigo Room. Anywhere but here.

The way it’s been boarded up doesn’t help matters. I can only guess as to why my father felt the need to do it. That’s why I go back outside, retrieve a crowbar from the truck, and pry off both boards in four quick pulls.

The wood clatters to the floor, and the armoire doors pucker open.

When I open them all the way, I see dresses.

They’re small. Little-girl dresses in an array of Easter-egg colors. Flouncy and frilly and cinched at the waist with satin ribbons. Shit no self-respecting child should ever be forced to wear. I sort through them, the fabric slightly stiff, dust gathered on the shoulders. On one, a strand of cobweb runs from sleeve to skirt. That’s when I realize these dresses are mine, meant for a much-younger me. According to the Book, my mother hung them here with the hope I’d one day want to dress like a Stepford Wife. To my knowledge, I never wore a single one. Which is probably why they’ve been left in the armoire, unused and unloved.

But when I move to the closet under the eaves and open its slanted door, I find more of my clothes inside. Clothes I’m certain I did wear. They’re exactly my style. Sensible jeans and striped T-shirts and a pair of sneakers with a wad of gum stuck to the left one’s sole. It’s a lot of clothes. My whole five-year-old wardrobe, it seems, is contained in this room.

In the 60 Minutes interview—the same one with shy little me and my awful bangs—my parents claimed we had fled Baneberry Hall with only the clothes we were wearing. I’ve watched it so many times the exchange is permanently etched in my memory.

“Is it true you’ve never been back to that house?” the interviewer said.

“Never,” my father said.