Based on true events
They were just kids. Nora was a highly intelligent, almost- teenager, with a striking head of bright red hair. Her face was littered with freckles that seemed to twinkle when she smiled.
Daniel was a pre-pubescent , awkward boy, who was outrageously tall and lanky for his age. His skinny body and height, made him appear as a cartoon drawing. He had a softness about him, however, that matched his kind eyes.
Krissy was 6. She would start grade 1 in the fall, and was a shy, quiet kid. She always had unkempt, strawberry blonde hair, and had lost her innocence within her distorted family. Her eyes sparkled for a few people but it was rarely seen. She seemed to carry dark shadows with her wherever she went. She enjoyed spending time with her older sister and brother, though. They always teased her and sometimes were cruel, but, most days they were all Krissy had.
The three siblings were left to their own devices regularly, as their parents enjoyed drinking after work. Priorities to their father, were always meeting his buddies for a beer after work, and staying for more. Typically they got home after 10 or 11 at night, leaving Nora in charge.
The children’s mother had a fascination with channeling “the other side”. She sat at the kitchen table, when she was at home, and either read tea-leaves to tell her own future, or dabbled in Tarot cards and Ouija Boards. Often, she had her sister and a few girlfriends over, and for fun, they would light candles, darken the kitchen and hall, and attempt to conjure up deceased relatives or friends. Nora became fascinated in the activity, asking her mother questions continually.
“Mom, did any dead people come for the séance?” Nora was ever inquisitive. “Did you see anyone? Did you talk to them?”
The trio’s grandmother lived in the basement of their home, although she was rarely around. She had found a new love interest, at the age of 57, and spent most nights at his house. They had met at a single’s night of square dancing, and hit it off as if they had known each other forever. Grandma and her new man, had both come from previous long marriages that ended poorly while they were in their late 40’s. They both took a chance on new love, and fell head over heels instantly. With Grandma rarely home, the children had no adults to supervise them or to ensure they were safely tucked into bed at night. Only Nora was the boss, until at least 10 pm every night.
One weekend night, Nora had a couple of her school friends over for a visit. One of her friends was the boy who lived across the street. He was a tall skinny, shaggy haired teen, who was outwardly flamboyant, and made young Krissy giggle. He liked to play hiding games with her, and was forever cracking jokes that entertained her. His name was Nick, and spent a lot of time over at the kids’ house, knowing that their parents were never home.
The other friend was Jessie, and she had a small crush on Daniel, but was always too shy to act on it. She smiled at him, and made excuses to touch his arm, or sit beside him, whenever she had the chance. She was a hippy type girl, with long straight brown hair and a petite thin body. Her cheeks were chubby, and she had a mouthful of crooked teeth. When she smiled, she reminded Krissy of a Jack-o-Lantern.
The 5 kids were sitting in the living room, playing records on their father’s turntable, and Nora spotted her mom’s Ouija Board, sitting on the bookshelf. She casually asked Nick if he had ever played with one, and he told her hadn’t. After a few moments of discussion and quick ghost stories, Nora decided that it would be fun to try a séance, like their mother did with her friends. The 4 older kids agreed, and Krissy sat quietly, worried about what could happen. Nick managed to talk her into joining them. “It will be really dark all by yourself if you don’t play along. You can sit beside me”, he persuaded.
Nora got the idea to try and do the séance in the darkness of the storage room in the old house. The home was built in the early 1800’s and off of the staircase, was a damp, cold room where her mother stored canned goods and old clutter. Krissy was terrified of that room. When her mom asked her to retrieve any pickles or jellies off the shelf, Krissy would slowly open the old wooden door, which was shaped at a sharp angle at the top. She would peak in to see what kind of monsters lurked inside, before running down the 5 steep stairs. She would shiver as she ran back up the stairs with her mom’s items in her hand, feeling someone watching or following her. Her hair would stand on end until the door shut behind her.
When Nora decided that they would use the storeroom, Krissy whined defiantly. “No, that room scares me too much”.
Her big sister snorted at her, “Don’t be such a baby. We will leave you up here all by yourself if you don’t come with.” Krissy’s eyes grew large, and tears filled the back of their lids. She shook all over. Nick took her hand and reminded her that she could sit with him. He wouldn’t let anything hurt her.
Nora announced to the group, “We will try and get Grandpa to come visit us”. Their grandfather had passed away in a senior’s home the year before. He had been a raging alcoholic his entire life, and a heavy smoker. After only 3 years in care, his heart and lungs gave out. The children never knew him well, but they knew he had died. The only time they saw him was at the senior home, for short visits where he would offer them candy, while he sat and smoked inside his suite. His visits were always awkwardly silent, as their mother never had many kind things to say about him. He had been a violent drunk when she was a child, and she hadn’t forgiven him, even after his death.
Nora got her mother’s large white candle off of the kitchen table, and the children sat in a circle around the board. Their mother told her once, that its good to have something that the deceased owned or touched for a séance, as they would be sure to come if there was a material connection. Nora jumped up, and ran into their Grandmother’s room to search for something of their grandfather’s. She settled on her Grandmother’s wedding ring, from their marriage. She set it beside the board on the concrete floor, and Nick turned off the light in the tiny, dank room. When he sat back down, Krissy gripped his hand as tightly as she could, until he grimaced in pain. She eased off and her entire body began to tremble all over. Tears streamed her face, in fear as she watched her sister, her friends and her big brother put their fingertips on the edges of the planchette and they all giggled nervously. Everyone, except Krissy.
“We all need to put our fingers on it, Krissy”, Nora scolded, rolling her eyes. Her sister’s eyes looked scary in the flickering light of the candle, so Krissy did as she was told. She cringed when she did it, and Nora started asking the board questions.
“Grandpa John, are you here?” The planchette began to move slowly under their fingers, and Krissy hoped that Daniel or Nora was making it move. The answer was “Yes”. Krissy had seen her mom sit with the board often enough to know what that meant, and every hair on her neck stood on end. The others gasped quietly, and tried not to giggle out loud. She could feel the warmth off of Nick’s body beside her as he started to become nervous.
Every room in the house was dark. The cold from the concrete floor penetrated through their bodies, but the warmth from the candle in the small circle warmed their faces.
“Grandpa John. Do you know why you’re here?” Nora asked out loud. The planchette pointed to “Yes” once again.
Nick whispered, “Nora or Daniel, stop moving it. You’re freaking me out”, his body was starting to tremble as well.
Nora, Daniel and Jessie all denied pushing the pointer around and Krissy sat still, feeling a cold draft run through her body. She whispered, “I’m scared Nora”.
Nora ignored her little sister, and asked the Ouija, “Grandpa John. Do you still love us?” The pointer went straight to “yes”, this time faster than before. Krissy was sure her brother or sister was forcing it. At least, she hoped they were. She was always very skeptical with her grandfather, as he always looked dirty and smelled bad. He rarely hugged her and she avoided looking at his watery blood shot eyes.
“Grandpa John, are you mad at Grandma for having a new boyfriend?”, Nora whispered loudly. She seemed worried about the answer, as she trembled holding the planchette.
As soon as the question came from her mouth, the planchette went off the board, and a loud bang was heard outside the closed storeroom door. All of the kids jumped up with a start, and Krissy screamed.
Daniel yelled, “That’s not funny Nora!” and he fumbled up the stairs in the dark to flick on the light switch and open the door. When he flicked the switch, a flash of light popped from the bulb, and then went black. The room stayed dark. Daniel grabbed the small metal door handle, but it wouldn’t turn. He couldn’t get the door open. All of the kids tried to stand on the tiny staircase and help turn the knob, panicking in the darkness. Then, the candle went out.
Nora had not brought her mother’s matches in the room with her to relight it, so the 5 of them were cramped in the tiny, musty room, surrounded by darkness. There were no windows on the wall, and no natural light. Krissy began to sob. The smell of hot wax and a black wick filled the room, and it made the kids gag. Nick and Jessie began to bang on the door in hopes of freeing themselves from the chamber-esque room, but it still wouldn’t budge. They all sat as silent as they could, to see if they could hear any other sounds coming from the other side of the door. Nothing. The closed door seemed airtight and Nora started to cry. She grabbed Krissy in the dark, and held her tight to her chest.
After a few minutes, which felt like hours, the 5 children sat back down on the floor, where they stood. None of them knew what to do, and Krissy could not stop shaking.
Daniel thought that they should all start yelling for help, and Nora reminded him that if anyone came in the house, she and he would be grounded for doing the séance. They weren’t allowed to light candles, let alone talk to dead grandfathers. In the dusty, smoky air, Nora whispered out loud, “Grandpa if you can hear me, please let us out of here. We will be good, I promise.”
A few moments later, they heard the sound of breaking glass from somewhere behind them. All 5 children screamed in unison and the smell of vinegar, garlic and dill filled the moist air. Nora gagged, and Krissy cried loudly. Daniel shouted “he’s breaking the dill pickle jars!” The odor was strong, and mixing with the candle and the sweat from all of them, it was repugnant.
As Krissy yelled, “Nora, what are we gonna do?” in her whining, terrified voice, the light flickered back on. The kids looked around and saw a shattered jar of their mother’s favorite pickles on the floor. Vinegar had run everywhere, and the cucumbers sat on a nest of shards. Daniel tried the door again, and it opened. A sigh of relief flooded the air, as they ran upstairs, leaving the storeroom door open behind them. They quickly split up, running room to room, turning all the lights in the house on. Nora hugged Daniel and Nick, and Jessie clung to Daniel’s side. All of them had been crying, and white crusty stains were left, as dried up creeks down their faces.
Nora looked at the clock and warned everyone, “Mom and Dad will be home soon. We have to clean up the pickles and get the board.” The 5 of them gingerly approached the open door, and Nick held it to keep it from closing. Daniel quickly wiped up the mess, while Nora grabbed the board. Jessie stood at the top of the stairs, too afraid to come down, and she held Krissy’s hand.
Nora was just about to climb the short steps, when she remembered their Grandmother’s ring, and she scanned the floor for it. She asked Daniel to help her, as it may have been kicked beneath one of the shelves. After a few minutes of crawling around on their hands and knees, Nora shouted,”Krissy! Do you have Grandma’s ring? Give it to me!” She sounded frantic as she yelled at her baby sister.
“I don’t have it, Nora. I promise”, Krissy’s voice trembled as she spoke. She was feeling very uneasy still, and held tight to Jessie’s hand. Daniel and Nora took the broom and swept the floor again, with Nora holding the dustpan on the floor, sifting through the dust and flakes of glass. She winced as a small shard became large in her little finger. She never stopped to try and pull it out. She was becoming crazy with concern and started checking the shelves, behind the jars and cans, and under all of her mom’s old junk. She was still digging through boxes, when the front door of the house opened, and their parents stumbled in. All 5 of them were silent. Jessie and Krissy were the first two people they saw.
“Why aren’t you in bed Krissy? It’s after 11:00 pm! Where’s Nora?” Neither of them acknowledged Jessie, even though she was still standing holding a terrified Krissy’s small fist in her hand. Both Nora and Daniel emerged from the storage room and said hi to their parents. Daniel made the excuse that he wanted some pickles and accidentally dropped a jar, which Nora helped him clean up.
Their drunken parents seem to believe the lie, and their mother scolded him, “I told you to stay the hell out of my pickles. And what did I say about having friends over while we are out. Now all of you get to bed. Your friends need to go home now”. She never looked at Jessie or Nick when she was referring to them
Days passed by, and none of the 3 children spoke about the séance since. They hadn’t seen Nick or Jessie since, and had tried to collectively forget the terrifying ordeal. They had been busy getting ready for their first day of school and spending time at the pool to end the summer season. Nora would take Krissy and drop her with her age group at the pool, and go and sprawl on towels with her friends, talking about boys and the teachers they had for homeroom. Daniel started spending more and more time alone, either at home or out on his 10 speed bike, just to get out of the house.
Just after school started, and they walked home, they were greeted by their grandmother and mom seated at the kitchen table. Grandma looked very upset and looked at all three children with reproach as they entered the kitchen. Their mother asked them all to sit down. The kids obeyed.
“Your grandmother is missing a diamond and ruby ring. Any of you have any idea where it could be?” She looked at her 3 children, each individually in the eyes, searching for guilt. Nora looked down at her feet, Daniel looked out the window, and Krissy fiddled with her fingers, watching them entwine and separate over and over. Nora answered first, “No, I haven’t seen it”.
Their grandmother looked at the tops of all of their heads as they gazed downward. “If any of you took it, I won’t be angry with you. It was very special to me, and I just want it back”. She didn’t hide her frustration very well when she spoke. None of the children answered her. No one looked at her.
“Ok,” their mother stated matter-of-factly, “until we get answers, you are all grounded. No TV, no friends, and no going out anywhere. Maybe that will help you find the ring. You can all go tidy up the yard, and then come in to make supper”.
The kids could hear the murmurs of the two women as they went outside to rake up leaves and fallen crab apples. They never spoke to each other, all lost in thought. Finally Daniel quietly suggested, “Maybe Jessie stole it, or Nick”.
Nora looked at her brother in shock,” They wouldn’t do that, Daniel. They aren’t thieves. I think maybe you threw it out with the pickles.”
“Nu uh,” Daniel retorted defensively. “I looked in the dustpan and was careful with the pickles. I put them in the garbage one by one, just in case.”
“I don’t know where it would be then”, Nora sighed as she piled up her section of leaves. She wished that she never had talked them into such a scary game. She shuddered remembering the locked door and the pop of the light. Something was in the rom with them. She could feel breath on the back of her neck in the dark, and she was positive, she felt a hand rest gently on her shoulder while Daniel was fidgeting with the door. She had covered her mouth, unbeknownst to the others to keep from screaming and scaring little Krissy. Like a mother, she protected Krissy from the strange hand in the darkness by pulling her close. She never wanted to go back into that room again. But she also wanted to try and find the ring. Maybe another fresh look, when they weren’t so rattled would be more productive.
That night, she and Daniel snuck down to the storage room once more to search again. They wanted to wait until their parents had left for the bar, but they had decided to stay in that night. Nora didn’t want to be grounded, and she couldn’t sleep, worrying about the mistake she had made. She talked Daniel into going with her to the scary room. They never told Krissy, as they didn’t want her to tell on them, or to be scared again. They crept in, while their parents slept. Nora took a flashlight with her from her dad’s workbench and the two hung on tight to one another while they descended into the cold, clammy room. They searched everywhere again as quickly as they could, with no luck. As they were walking up he steps, tip toeing as quietly as possible, Nora heard a man’s voice behind her. Daniel didn’t seem to hear it. She snapped her head around to see what she heard, but there was no one behind her. She could have sworn, it was laughter; a man’s laughter that chilled her to the bone. “Did you hear that?” she tugged her brother’s sleeve where her hand grabbed tightly.
“What?” her brother whispered back. He hadn’t heard anything.
Months later, their grandma remarried. She was packing all of her items in boxes and moving into the city with her new man. The kids were all sad to see her go, but they loved the man that she had wed, as their new grandfather. He loved them all genuinely, and was looking forward to their visits to their grandmother and his home. He had lived in the same house for a number of years, and looked forward to it having a woman’s touch. He was excited to garden with her and have her with him all the time. He loved to garden and preserve his harvest, and felt blessed that he found someone who shared the same hobbies.
His house was a modest bungalow, with large windows, a new garage that he had built with his own hands, and a large backyard. His flowers and vegetables were incredible every year and he prided himself on the cleanliness and order of his home. He was a heavyset man, with a head of balding black hair. He had dark brown eyes and a bright smile, especially when his new bride was at his side.
His house was close to 25 miles from the kids’ house where their grandmother had lived in the basement for the past 6 years. She looked forward to not having to drive back and forth, and to make her new life with her love. They were always holding hands and cuddling, and doing chores side by side. It was adorable how inseparable they were.
On a spring afternoon, Krissy came to spend the day with her grandmother and new grandpa while her parents were out of town and Nora and Daniel were busy with friends. Their punsihment had been lifted long ago, as the mystery of the stolen ring was never solved. Their grandmother seemed to have either forgotten or just decided to write it off as a sign of her new life.
Krissy and her grandpa were out in the yard, getting the garden ready to plant. He had asked her to grab a small rake and help him level the dirt around. As they raked, she chatted with him about school, and asked him questions about the vegetables they would plant. It was such a warm day, with the sun shining on them as they worked. Krissy was enjoying the aroma of fresh cut grass and her grandfather’s after shave, as the scent filled the air beside her. Grandma brought them both a glass of lemonade to cool them, and encourage a quick break. They all sat on lawn chairs and enjoyed their refreshing drink and each other’s company for a few moments.
Before long, grandpa stood and took his rake in his hands, and stepped back into the garden. Krissy followed suit, and dug her rake into the soil next to him. She couldn’t help but smile at him, with a twinkle in her eye, He was such a warm, nice man and she already loved him dearly. She felt happy when she was at their home.
As he raked back the top of his dirt, a glint of sunshine bounced off of his rake. It caught his eye and he looked around near his feet to see what it was. He moved his rake slightly, and heard a tiny “clink”. He bent over with a groan and wiggled his hands in the soil, pulling something from under the layer of dirt. He opened his hand, and Krissy stopped raking to see what kind of treasure he had found. He opened his hand to show her. The smile dropped from her face instantly and she held back a scream. Her body trembled all over and she felt as though her legs would give out from under her small body.
“It’s a ring”, he said, amused. He had never seen it before and shook the dirt off in his hand to have a better look. He ran the hose water over it to rinse it off. He had an odd smile on his face, surprised at his findings. He called for his wife.
Grandma had been in the flowerbed behind them, completely unaware of what was happening. She was giving Krissy and her new grandpa some time to bond. She came strolling to the garden, with a content smile on her face. He held the ring out, “Look at this! I just found it in the garden. It looks expensive”, he proudly said. And he handed it her.
Her sun-touched skin became ashen grey instantly. Her hands trembled. She could barely hold the small ring between her dainty fingers. She looked closer to make sure. The diamonds and the ruby in the center were dull from the dirt, but she instantly knew. It had been a one of a kind original, designed just for her, by a jeweler who owed her ex husband a favor. He had saved his life in the war, and this ring was his pay back. She had always loved the perfection of the stones and the delicate setting of the ruby.
She checked the inside of the ring, just to make sure. It was inscribed. “To my wife, Love John”.