“Just give me something I can use in next week’s edition,” Brian says as he follows me to a row of bound volumes spanning two decades ago. “A legitimate quote.”
I grab two more volumes, one from twenty-five years ago, the other from the year before that, and carry them back to the desk.
“Here’s your quote: Like everyone in Bartleby, I’m shocked and saddened by the recent discovery inside Baneberry Hall. My deepest condolences go out to the family of Petra Ditmer.”
While Brian scribbles it down in his notebook, I open the volume from the year my family fled Baneberry Hall. The article about our departure is easy to find—it’s splashed across the front page of the July 17 issue.
THE HAUNTING OF BANEBERRY HALL
Fearing for their lives, new owners flee historic estate.
The story that started it all.
I’ve seen it before, of course. Scans of the article are all over the internet. That tabloidy headline and photo of Baneberry Hall—eerily similar to the one currently on the front page of the Gazette—have been preserved forever.
So has the name of the man who wrote it.
“Still my finest hour,” Brian Prince says as he peers over my shoulder to see his byline.
“And my family’s darkest,” I reply.
I read the article for what’s probably the hundredth time, wondering what my life would have been like had it never been written. I’d have had a more normal childhood, that’s for damn sure. No being an outcast. No being teased and tormented. No Goth freaks trying to befriend me because they mistakenly thought I was one of them.
Maybe I would have become the writer my father wanted me to be. No article would have meant no Book, which is what steered me away from the profession in the first place.
And maybe my parents would have stayed happily married, our family intact, my holidays and summers not spent being tensely shuttled from one home to another.
But the article exists. Wishing otherwise won’t change that. Until the day I die, I’ll be associated with my father and what he claimed happened at Baneberry Hall.
I stop at a choice quote he gave to Brian.
“People will laugh,” he said. “People will call us crazy. But I’m certain there’s something in that house—something supernatural—that wants us dead.”
Reading it, I can’t help but think about my conversation with Dr. Weber. She was convinced I had been telling the truth. That I believed what I saw inside that house.
Something was haunting you.
I slam the volume shut, no longer wanting to look at that article, even though I can probably recite it from memory.
I grab the second book I took down from the shelf. The previous year.
Again, it’s not hard to locate the article I want. I know that date as well. When I get there, the first thing I see is a headline brutal in its simplicity.
MURDER-SUICIDE AT BANEBERRY HALL
Below it is a photograph of the entire Carver family—a regular sight during my obsessive teenage Googling. Only this time I’m struck by how similar the Carvers were to my family. Just alter the faces slightly and I could be looking at a picture of my parents and me during our time at Baneberry Hall.
But the real shock comes when I see the byline accompanying the article.
Two families with two vastly different experiences at Baneberry Hall. And Brian wrote about both of them.
I turn to the reporter still standing behind me. The interview is about to resume. Only now I’ll be the one asking the questions.
Jess shoved the Ouija board into the trash can, making a show of pushing it deeper against the garbage already inside the bin. She topped it with the remnants of our breakfast—runny oatmeal, scrambled eggs, and crumbs of toast scraped off plates.
“We’re done with this, Ewan,” she said. “No more talk of ghosts. No more talking to ghosts. No more pretending there isn’t a logical explanation for all of this.”
“You can’t deny what’s happening,” I said.
“What’s happening is that our daughter now spends every waking moment in this house terrified.”
That I couldn’t argue with. We’d spent most of the night consoling Maggie, who refused to go back to her room. Between crying jags and bouts of panicking, she told us she had been asleep when the armoire doors flew open. Then Mister Shadow stepped out of it, sat down on the edge of her bed, and told her she was going to die soon.
The story never changed, no matter how many times she told it.
My reaction was to be more concerned than ever before. I was convinced some form of ghostly entity was occupying our house, and I feared for the safety of our daughter.
Jess had a different reaction: denial.
“You can’t keep entertaining the thought that any of this is real,” she said as she prepared for a day of work on next to no sleep. “Until you stop, Maggie will continue to think Mister Shadow is real.”
“But last night—”
“Was our minds playing tricks on us!” Jess shouted, her voice echoing off the kitchen walls.
“Our minds didn’t move that thing all over the board.”
“That was us, Ewan. Specifically you. I’m not an idiot. I know how Ouija boards work. It’s all subtle direction and power of persuasion. Everything spelled out on that board was exactly what you wanted to see.”