Halloween 2018.

“Ghost Hunters Wanted”

That was what the post said on Facebook. Jenna Chambers responded to it because she felt she had something to prove to her family. Her great grandfather had passed down a bunch of bizarre notes to her grandfather, then her dad got them and she’d read enough of them to know that either ghosts and other paranormal beings were real and they lived in Lafollette or her great grandfather should have been a horror writer instead of a police detective.

The notes were kept a strict family secret and they’d been added onto over the years by her father and grandfather. Every time Jenna expressed any interest in joining the family in it’s battle against the malicious paranormal activity that they were convinced gripped the city at times, she was rebuffed. Not this time though. This time she was going to join the ghost hunters from the Facebook post, circumventing the family stonewalling.

The ghost hunters in this case were two idiots and their friend, a moron of some renown who had somehow amassed 475,200 YouTube subscribers and nearly a half million followers on their “Ghost Blasters” Facebook page. They “investigated” anything they thought they could exploit to get views. The three of them had gotten together and decided they would hire Jenna for the night after she responded to their post, it guaranteed extra views if a pretty girl was in the videos.

So it was that Brian, Kelly, Johnny Mac and Jenna met at Common Ground, the town coffee shop on Friday, October 31st to plan the evening. They were going to cross stream on YouTube live and Facebook live. It was early evening, the coffee shop was nearing closing time when the quartet met up and discussed the hunt.

Johnny Mac had heard from a local that the place to be was the old post office. Brian had read some stories and wanted to stop at Professor Neewollah’s, which was by the creek and bridge. Those locations were mentioned as the site of some barbaric murders in the past. Kelly wanted to head to the Russell Towers. It was where the Adro Hotel had stood and it had some really mysterious history, but who knew if that spirit stuck around when the old hotel was torn down?

Jenna honestly was convinced that any of those places were perfectly suited to have a haunted experience in LaFollette, but the only answer was of course Glen Oaks, the 27 room (rumored to be many more than 27 if it wanted to be) Victorian home built by the town founders, the LaFollette brothers. No one could take inventory of haunted locations in all of East Tennessee without feeling the chill of the sprawling manor pulling them towards it.

Glen Oaks had many ownership changes over it’s years, but one thing that was consistent with that ownership, once the LaFollette family was out of the picture, no owners lived in the mansion. It was said that Mrs. Russell, who also bought the Adro back in the early 1930s, refused to be in the great house once the sun went down.

In the end Jenna insisted they try Glen Oaks, or she wouldn’t participate in their live stream. The three ghost hunters quickly folded, Jenna was the eye candy and three nerds didn’t have the live appeal of three nerds and a beautiful young woman.

What the three hadn’t told Jenna was that they didn’t have permission to be on premises of the old manor. They had even implied that they had permission to be in all the locations they’d been discussing when their actual plan all along was a night of trespassing and hoping no one noticed. Still, Johnny Mac had certain tools that made entry easier and he was pretty comfortable using them. He was at heart a con man, after all.

The gang arrived at the Glen Oaks driveway and began heading up on foot. Brian called for Jenna to help him film a quick intro from the street. In reality Johnny Mac was around the back working on the locks to gain entry into the old Victorian. After the preview video was shot, Brian suggested they head up the leaf littered walkway that led to the double door entry. As they approached, the doors swept open with a flourish and Johnny Mac stepped out with a bow. Kelly filmed this, added it to the intro and then informed everyone that the live stream was starting in 15 minutes when he posted it.

A strong west wind blew up the walkway, picking up freshly fallen leaves from the big oak trees in front of the house, and depositing them on the front porch and the four ghost hunters. Jenna looked back over her shoulder and noticed the moon becoming obscured by clouds and she saw a brief flash of lightning in the distance. “Oh great, a dark and stormy night.” she thought. “Could this be any more cliche?”

Jenna saw something odd before stepping into the grand foyer, an older car pulling up, it looked like something from the late 1940s. She saw some teens getting out in clothes that matched the era of the car. She was briefly distracted when Johnny Mac said “shut the door before we have to rake the inside of this place!” When she looked back the car and teens were gone.

“Keep the lights to a minimum,” Brian barked. “Gotta have the creep factor.”

Jenna didn’t think creepy would be hard to find in this place. She just hoped those teenagers had left. This place was legit dangerous, especially on Halloween, according to her family records. She wanted to stay and document a full night in here. Something none of her relatives had done before, they’d only entered as parts of past investigations in their official law enforcement capacity. She didn’t want a car load of pranksters crashing the hunt and messing it up.

Kelly began setting up voice recorders to play live at the end of the evening. There was always plenty of static and screeching on those and because the human brain always tried to put things in a recognizable pattern, all a ghost hunter had to do was say what they thought they heard and the listener’s brain would immediately fill the pattern and cause them to hear what was suggested. Being good at this was an art form and the three ghost hunters with Jenna were good artists, though mainly of the con variety.

After around twenty minutes of prep time (and after they were sure the police weren’t going to come investigate a break in at the place) the team went live on social media.

Jenna was watching Johnny Mac on her phone in the upstairs master bedroom. He was standing in the downstairs foyer talking about how he was close friends with the famous Warrens of Amityville fame and how he had learned his paranormal investigation skills from them. She groaned when she saw one of the teenagers from before come into the frame behind him. The girl walked through the shot and started up the stairs behind Johnny Mac, she stumbled and fell, then sort of crawled the rest of the way up.

Jenna had no idea how in the world neither Johnny Mac, nor Kelly, who was running the camera, failed to notice her. Her being inside surely meant that her friends were in the house somewhere too. That was going to hamper Jenna’s investigation, so she decided her first priority was to quickly find the teens and show them out.

Jenna pocketed her phone, so she missed the live viewers telling Johnny Mac they’d spotted the girl behind him. By the look on his face, no one was more shocked than he was by this development. That’s when there was a loud rattle from the kitchen, a drawer clearly opened then slammed shut. He and Kelly took off for the kitchen, the camera bouncing along looking over Johnny Mac’s shoulder. The pair arrived in the room and all was silent and normal.

However that wasn’t the case for their live viewers. They clearly saw two teenage boys dressed in costumes from the 1940s or 1950s, rifling through the drawers. The comments began to flood the live feed that Johnny Mac was blatantly faking not seeing the persons in the kitchen who were literally standing feet away.

Kelly was reading the comments as he filmed. He didn’t know what the viewers were talking about. There was nothing in front of him and there was nothing on the feed on his own phone. He typed in “we legit see nothing.” The feed comments lit up again. There was a boy, around 17 standing right behind Johnny Mac. He pulled a candle out of the drawer and waved to his buddy. They pair walked directly past Johnny Mac and nearly bumped into Kelly as they went by the camera. Only the people watching the live stream saw anything at all.

Jenna came to the top of the stairs but couldn’t see anyone at the bottom of them. Johnny Mac must have moved to another room. Below was only darkness, if the girl was down there she didn’t have a light on, that was for sure. Jenna was about to turn around when a flickering light came into view. It was a candle that looked like it was floating along by itself. Jenna wanted to run and yank it down. She was sure it was the guys down there faking evidence. She wanted this hunt to be legitimate.

She went down the stairs prepared to grab whichever one of them was pulling this candle gag and rip them to shreds. Off camera of course. The candle itself continued to float closer into the foyer and it turned up the stairs. Jenna had no idea how they were pulling this off but it did look impressive. She pulled out her phone to record it, she was going to send a snapchat to her friend Marda and tell her what idiots the guys she was with were.

The candle was maybe half way up the steps when she got her phone out. She recorded a 10 second video and sent it. Then she rushed down the stairs past the candle and into the foyer, looking around for one of the guys. She knew one of them had to be filming it, probably trying to get live footage of her being scared by the spooky candle. She looked around and couldn’t see the tell tale glow of a screen in the darkened foyer. Her phone buzzed and she saw it was Marda snapping her back.

She opened the snap from her friend. Marda had sent her “cool candle, which of the guys was it holding it?”

Jenna sent back “holding it? None of them were holding it. They have it rigged to look like it is floating.”

Marda answered immediately with “ummm…there was def a guy holding it. Looked about 17, 18. Dressed like an old timey kid.”

Jenna didn’t have a clue what in the world Marda was talking about. She was literally two feet from the candle on the stairs. There was no guy holding anything.

Jenna sent back “ummm lol, ur messing with me now. There was no guy.”

Marda opened the snap but didn’t answer. Jenna tried to dismiss the weird conversation with her friend and she moved on down a hallway that eventually connected to the kitchen. It was the hallway the candle had came from. Jenna walked down the hall and found Johnny Mac and Kelly sitting at the kitchen table. They were looking at their phone screen, watching Brian who had taken over live from upstairs.

Jenna stopped just outside the door to listen to what they were saying.

“I don’t see what they are talking about at all.” Johnny Mac said. Kelly added “I don’t either but this chick just said there’s a girl walking down the hallway behind Brian right now. ” “Bull!,” Johnny Mac grumbled out, the hallway is deserted besides Brian. It’s crystal clear, right there on my screen.

Brian walked down the hallway hoping he looked scared. Acting scared but not overacting was a key to paranormal video work. When faking these things, nothing got you busted faster than being overly dramatic.

Suddenly, Brian hit the mother of all cold spots. His breath let loose in a stream of steam and he began to shiver. He had no idea what on Earth could be causing him to be so so cold but he was going to use it to his advantage.

“H-h-hey f-f-fans,” he chattered out through clanking teeth, “we just hit a random cold spot here in the upstairs west hallway.” He had a wireless digital thermometer that they normally would have the sensor for in another room. They would dip the sensor in ice to fake a temperature drop cold spot. They hadn’t set that up yet, so Brian had the thermometer and sensor together.

He took out the sensor and sat it on the floor, then he held the thermometer up to the camera and it read 12 degrees. His lips were turning blue and his hands and arms were stinging. “I’m going to have to get out of this c-c-cold s-s-spot f-f-fans,” he told the audience. He once again held up the thermometer and it now read 4 degrees.

Downstairs Jenna entered the kitchen. She and the two guys watched the comments rolling across the feed. People were describing an open door behind Brian with blue cold icy fog spilling out of it. They said a young girl walked right past Brian and into that blue fog. The trio were absolutely mystified about what the viewers were seeing. That wasn’t happening on the devices they were viewing. Jenna was beginning to feel a very nervous dread creeping into her stomach. Johnny Mac and Kelly however, couldn’t have been more excited. The live feed had 12,000 viewers and it was growing exponentially by the minute. This was going to be their most successful stream ever. That meant dollars, maybe even their own show on the Parachannel.

Brian stammered out that he was going to switch to guest hunter, Jenna, making her live debut. Jenna heard the cue and got up, with Kelly following her with the camera. Jenna went live, briefly on side by side with the now shockingly pale and shivering Brian. She told Brian to get warm and then made introductions and pleasantries with the now 19,000 live viewers.

Brian looked at the thermometer, it was reading -11 degrees. Hoarfrost had formed on the walls of the hallway. Fog had formed at waist level and filled the area. He heard a click behind him and a door creakily swinging open. What felt like an Arctic wind rushed out from the room, blowing the ice fog down the hallway. He watched as the temperature fell to -40 in seconds. He could feel his skin burning and cracking in the wilting cold.

The small light that he was using to film began to flicker on and off. His thought process began to slow. He was finding his limbs going numb and he could feel his eyeballs beginning to freeze. He could see the doorway and only a short distance inside the room from which the cold poured. His light began to flicker slower and slower, like a camera flashing every few seconds, lighting the now black hallway in an ever slowing strobe effect. A young girl, maybe ten years old was floating towards him with her arms spread wide. The tips of her toes were barely touching the floor, her eyes were milky white. She was twenty feet away….flicker….fifteen feet away…..flicker….ten feet away….flicker…five feet away…

Brian waited helplessly for that next flicker. He was glued to the floor, unable to move or even feel. He didn’t know if his eyes had frozen blind or if the light had given up and stopped flickering. He could hear the large grandfather clock ticking from all the way downstairs. It got louder and louder, finally it was booming as if someone was pounding a giant hammer into an anvil, the booms slowed, they seemed to be coming every minute instead of every second but they were oh so loud. His insides shook and his head split with each boom. Blood began to trickle down his nose and in between the booms he began to hear chittering laughter, the laugh of a young girl. He heard a little girl’s voice saying “so much fun Grandmother,” then “BOOM!” His eardrums burst and he heard no more.

Jenna was standing near a creepy looking grandfather clock that was ticking in an annoyingly loud fashion as she tried to think of things to say to the audience. Most of whom were asking about Brian and the girl who walked past him into the fog.

She had a nagging feeling that they had now gone way beyond the acting portion of the evening. Kelly and Johnny Mac had no idea that they were all in danger and Jenna was a little ashamed because no matter how much she had read from her great grandfather Chambers’ notes, she hadn’t really believed them deep down inside. She did now. She could feel the house or whatever lived here, pressing against her mind. It felt to her like someone looking for a door into her consciousness and using spiders directly on her brain to do so.

She wanted badly to see the comments, clearly people on the outside were able to see things the ghost hunters couldn’t. Even though she had seen the girl at first like those watching had, she couldn’t see anything unusual outside of the cold when she was watching Brian. She could see the frosty breath from him a few minutes ago. She’d just been upstairs and it was a pleasant 70 degrees up there then.

Johnny Mac walked into the room and came over to Jenna, joining her on camera. “We see your comments folks but like with the people you say we should see, we don’t hear the “creepy” music.” He used air quotes as he said the word creepy.

Jenna looked at him, puzzled.

“Our viewers say they can hear creepy music, like from an old timey record player with a scratchy or warped record.” he informed her. Jenna looked around worriedly and said, “we’re going to pause the stream for just a few minutes fans.”

Johnny Mac’s eyes nearly popped out of his head. Kelly was shaking his head side to side emphatically behind the camera while mouthing the word “no.”

The viewer count was already crashing though, they immediately lost 15k viewers as soon as Jenna mentioned a short break.

Johnny Mac took over and gave a quick speech about staying tuned because they would be back on in five minutes, tops. Kelly paused the stream and both looked ready to kill Jenna.

“Why did you do that?” Johnny Mac barked as soon as the stream was paused. “We were right at 40 thousand live viewers.”

Jenna looked at the two and with a calm that she certainly didn’t feel and said “we have to find Brian and get the heck out of here. This place is legitimately haunted. Heck, this town is haunted. Especially tonight of all nights.”

When she said that her phone buzzed. It was a video snap from Marda, which she opened, only half paying attention. Marda was sitting on her bed in the video.

“Jenna! That house is so creepy! Why would you be in there ghost hunting?”

The 10 seconds were up but the next video was coming in now.

“You know people who go in there on Halloween don’t make it out. They stay there forever.”

Jenna looked down at the screen more closely, Marda’s voice had started changing.

Another video arrived.

“You are just stupid aren’t you, deary. Just nosy and stupid like your old great grandfather.”

Jenna was now officially horrified. Marda’s face looked like it was melting as that video progressed.

Yet another video arrived.

“Your friend is now with me, foolish girl. The other two, they will join me too. Then you, I should have never let your family get its roots deep in my town. Well deary, that ends tonight!”

Marda, or whatever it really was, was now very very old and she was no longer in her bedroom over on East Prospect, she was in the bedroom upstairs that Jenna had been in an hour ago.

One more video arrived. It was Brian, he was coated in blue ice, his eyes were empty, bloody sockets, one cracked and ruined eyeball was frozen to his cheek. There were young girls dressed in clothing from over a hundred years ago looking at him and giggling.

Jenna’s phone died. The battery dropped from 86 percent to 0 and it shut down.

Johnny Mac and Kelly were arguing about where to start the next shoot. Jenna looked up at them, mouth agape.

“Are you two stupid? Didn’t you hear that?” she asked them incredulously.

They looked at her as if she’d gone mad. “Ummm yes, we heard it.” Kelly said. “We don’t appreciate you wanting to bail just because your friend found a cool Halloween party and you want to go.”

“What? What are you talking about? That wasn’t even Marda. It was some ancient woman and she’s here in the house! Brian is nearly dead for goodness sakes!”

Johnny Mac looked at her deadpan and said “are you on drugs?” We clearly heard those videos and heard you tell your friend you would make up an excuse and bail on us. Pretty gutsy to say that with us standing ten feet away. ”

Jenna panicked fully at that point. “What? You didn’t hear her? You didn’t see Brian!? He’s frozen, he was dying!”

Kelly said “C’mon girl, Brian is upstairs in the main bedroom, he’s live right now.” Then he turned around the ipad and showed Jenna the live feed.

Brian was on the screen, he was covered in icicles, his frozen lips cracked open and he could only croak out “help me.” A very tall, very ugly man in a butcher’s smock walked over to Brian. He had a ten pound sledge hammer in his hand. He leaned over Brian and said, “nothing personal my friend, her house, her rules.” He raised the hammer and Jenna screamed.

Johnny Mac and Kelly couldn’t see or hear that which Jenna had just witnessed. What they saw instead was a healthy looking Brian who was talking about the history of missing persons and suicides around the downtown Lafollette area and how those events seemed to feed LaFollette’s reputation for haunted activity.

Jenna ran from the room and ran up the stairs heading for the bedroom from which she’d received that series of snap videos. She arrived at the door and it was stuck tight, it had opened freely for her earlier. She could hear low moaning and crying coming from behind it, then a sickening thud followed by giggles. From below it, cold blue fog crept out and it was freezing her toes to the point of pain.

Try as she might she couldn’t budge the door. It was like something was holding the door knob so tightly she couldn’t turn it.

Down the hallway a door opened and Jenna heard a creaking sound, out of the darkness a tricycle rolled slowly down the hall. It came to Jenna and stopped at her feet. The door knob started turning in Jenna’s hand. Before she could catch her balance she stumbled forward and fell through the doorway and into the deepest, darkest void she’d ever known.

She didn’t know how long she fell, only that there was a thud that she both heard and felt. When she opened her eyes she was in her bedroom. The late afternoon sun was slanting through the window right onto an old notebook she recognized as her great grandfather’s. She had no memory of getting it out, nor did she have any memory of opening it.

Jenna picked it up and was startled by the message on the page.

“My best advice to any who see this, never set foot in Glen Oaks on Halloween. I don’t even recommend being out anywhere in town on Halloween night. ”

Triple underlined in red were the words “STAY HOME!”

Jenna looked at her phone. She had two missed calls from Johnny Mac and a text asking if she was still coming tonight.

She messaged him back “No, and you should just turn around and go home yourself. I’m not leaving my house tonight.”

Johnny Mac sent back “Wow…thanks, but no thanks. We’ll manage on our own.”

Jenna took her great grandfather Dan’s advice and did indeed stay home for Halloween night.

She woke up the next morning and saw on Facebook that the local ghost story tour had found three bodies on the front lawn of Glen Oaks during a very late night pass, which had been delayed after a minor explosion in the area. Even though the temperature had been in the 40s all three were frozen, “as if they’d been in a deep freeze,” one person who’d been on the tour commented.

Jenna came downstairs and went to look outside, there she found an envelope on the welcome mat. It had her name on the front.

“Ms. Chambers,

I do not know what is is about your family that troubles me so. Nor can I figure out how your great grandfather pulled you from my clutches. But make no mistake, I will figure it out. He will pay for his insolence for many years to come since he so nicely entered my home to save you, now he belongs to me. I will however tell you, that as long as you live you’re always welcome to come to my home. I will treat you as nicely as I treated those fools you sent me last night.

Ms. Guilderland ”

Dan Chambers looked out the from window of Glen Oaks. He hadn’t stepped foot in this house in over 60 years before tonight. He hadn’t any real choice though. His family needed him. His great granddaughter was brave. Too brave really. He cursed himself for writing down anything about this town. Now he was trapped in it.

A stunningly beautiful woman walked up beside him, except Chambers knew she was the farthest thing from beautiful anything could be.

Outside on the lawn the morgue worker was gathering the bodies there. Just empty husks really, the three young men were gone. She’d consumed them utterly.

“I was going to keep her here you know, keep her with me. Those fools didn’t deserve the honor, but I was going to keep her for your sake.”

Chambers looked at this woman he’d spoken to several times over the years before he’d died. He was still terrified of her, even now when he should have been beyond fear. “I guess you’ll have to settle for me.”

She threw her head back and laughed.

Jenna Chambers checked the Ghost Blasters Facebook page. There were many comments of “Rest in Peace”.

She checked down the page searching for the live feed from the prior night and found nothing. There was a brief intro from Brian saying they would be live soon then quite a number of comments asking them why they weren’t streaming.

Local law enforcement released a statement that the three had been killed when a propane truck had been struck by lightning and exoloded nearby. Somehow, they postulated, the super cold liquid propane been blown out of the truck and had frozen two to death while the other had a significant head injury, no doubt from a piece of the wreckage, though they couldn’t seem to find that piece. They issued an apology to the families for not finding the bodies for several hours after the explosion and explained that they didn’t think the propane was capable of freezing someone to death at that distance, besides Glen Oaks was private property and the three men were trespassing. So they hadn’t even looked on the estate grounds.

Jenna found that explanation extremely hard to swallow but the rest of the people in town seemed to accept it unconditionally. Her great grandfather always said that LaFollette accepts the bizarre and forgets the unusual better than any town in America. She was now seeing it first hand.

She picked up her lap top, sat back on her bed and began typing.

“Jenna Chambers: LaFollette Journal, Case One.”