Ferguson House is a thirty-room gothic mansion on the edge of the downtown core, built back when that was the edge of town. In its three-century existence it has been a home, an inn, a mental hospital, a medical laboratory and a house of ill repute. It was deemed a State Historical Site in the forties; now it’s called White Elephant House because the city doesn’t want to spend a cent of their own funds keeping it up and the state only provides enough money for one caretaker.
That’s where I come in. My job is to keep this heap of bricks and masonry from collapsing under its own weight. I get paid the equivalent of a junior city clerk’s wage plus free room and board – in the house. Most of the job is handyman-type repairs and trying to find a way to sleep through creaks, pops, animals crawling in the walls, flapping shutters and the occasional moaning breeze.
Last Friday night, the thirteenth, I was awakened in the middle of the night by a door slamming. It was most likely kids sneaking in on some stupid dare again, not realizing I was living here. It wouldn’t be the first time. I got up, threw on my bathrobe and slippers, and switched on the lantern.
The lantern threw its pale light down the empty hallway, casting long shadows along the walls and over the ancient portraits. I heard a gasp, but I couldn’t tell if it was me or someone else.
“Is anybody there?” I stepped slowly into the hall.
A door creaked. I stepped forward to where I thought it was, but the door looked untouched. I tested it anyway; the handle turned stiffly and the swelled wood resisted opening. The room inside was dark, dusty and undisturbed. I pulled the door closed, which took some force, and heard a double slam.
Looking back down the hallway I saw that my bedroom door had shut too. This old place could be like that sometimes, but I had to be sure. I walked down and flung it open. The room was just as I’d left it.
I decided the first sound must have been a dream and was just closing my door when I heard the sound of a metal plate or tray hitting the floor, followed by the jangling of about a dozen flying utensils.
The door was open in a flash, but the hall was still empty. I moved toward the sound and found nothing. As usual.
The door beside me shook under a hammering blow. Then another. The handle started rattling. I turned it and shouldered the door open, barging into the room.
It was empty. I checked under the bed, in the closet, behind the door. Nothing. Then I went to leave the room and saw the shadow on the far wall. It was tall and looming, male and threatening. I thrust the lantern into the hall to see what was casting it and the shadow vanished.
An upward arc of blood appeared on the corridor wall and started slowly dripping from several spots along its length. I backed off quickly as another arc appeared on the opposite wall.
As I backed toward my own door drops of blood began appearing on the hardwood floor from no discernable source. Drip. Drip. One of them landed on my slipper. At that point I turned and bolted to my room. As I went through my door I felt something brush past me, then the door slammed. I heard the sound of a key in the door, even though there was no lock.
When a small bloody handprint appeared on my side of the door I fainted.
When I awoke Saturday morning there were no signs of the prior night's events in the hallway or on my door. In the afternoon I checked out the newspaper archives in the library. On Saturday June 14, 1879, it was reported that one of the patients at Ferguson House Sanitarium had escaped from his cell the previous night and been stabbed to death by a nurse. The plucky woman was startled but in good spirits.
Things have been quiet since then, but I still can’t get that dark red stain out of my slipper.