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A house is just rock, wood and stone, right? That’s what I had been told all of my life. Now, I had to wonder if I have been wrong all these years. Maybe a house can be the perfect hiding place for invisible monsters; monsters whose sole purpose in life, and in death, is to remind those non-believers that things do go ‘bump’ in the night. Now, here in the dark, I regret ever being curious. I am hoping, through some miracle, someone will find this, and will take care not to make the same mistake I did.
The old farmhouse was about a half-mile from my neighborhood. As children we had heard stories of the strange family that lived and supposedly died there. I was only eight when my brother told me the story of old farmer Jonas. He’d said that Jonas was the ninth child to be born to the Kinder family; they had been the original owners of the farm. I’d heard that Jonas wasn’t quite right in the head, and he was a violent boy, prone to fits of temper, and even self-mutilation. Jonas never went to school, or if he did, he never stayed long. He grew into a hulk of a man, and didn’t need any assistance to throw a hay bale over a nine-foot fence with one hand. Jonas lived on that farm all his life, even after his parents died, and all his brothers and sisters married and left.
My brother told me that Jonas hired farmhands, to help him continue running the farm, but no one he had hired was ever seen again. Then, one day the police came out to the farm because it had been nearly a month since Jonas had been seen, and he owed the feed store money for supplies he had supposedly bought for the animals. Plus, rumor had it that many of the animals on the farm had died, and were left rotting in the pasture land where other local farmers grazed their cattle, causing swarms of blowflies. The police never found Jonas, but they did find something that would haunt any child’s nightmares. They said that they had found the remains of at least ten people, and none of their bodies were found in whole. Remains were strewn all over the house, and it was obvious that no one had died a natural death. The authorities swarmed the property, giving the most thorough search that was possible…but Jonas never surfaced. Most said that he had finally fled the farm, knowing he would go to prison after killing all his farmhands; but, some said he was still out there, hiding on his property, just waiting.
The city foreclosed on the property, but it was never sold. The farmhouse was left to decay, and became the center of scary stories amongst the teenagers in town. Often, playground bullies would taunt other children, betting them a few bucks that they couldn’t stay on the property for five minutes in the dark. I was one of them, and one night, decided to lead an amateur investigation of the abandoned property with no purpose but to kill time, and satisfy my ego. I figured that broken glass and creaky floorboards were going to be the extent of the trip. I was wrong; so very, very wrong.
The fields surrounding the farmhouse were silent, not even the chirp of a cricket broke through the dark. The front door and several of the windows were boarded up with sheets of plywood, and ‘NO TRESPASSING’ signs were plastered everywhere. My three friends and I split up into pairs to look for a way into the house. The weeds were nearly waist high in some places around the yard, and we were constantly tripping over piles of garbage and chunks of wood that littered the yard. I don’t remember how much time had passed until I heard the shouting of my friend that he had found a way in, however, I do remember the panic that engulfed my chest as I walked toward the back of the house. I was certain that we wouldn’t be able to enter that place, and, although this little adventure had been my idea, I was looking forward to faking disappointment about our failure. Now, I was stuck. I had no choice but to lead the way, and slip inside Jonas Kinder’s farmhouse of horrors.
My friend Ben pointed to a set of wooden cellar doors. There had been a chain looped through the handles, secured with a heavy padlock. As I looked more closely, I noticed that someone had struck the lock and broken it apart. Ben leaned down to pull the chains away, and together we pulled the heavy doors open. A cloud of dust and the dank, musty smell of wet soil and rotting vegetation pushed out of the stairwell, and Mark and Lindsay, my other two friends, shined their flashlights on a rickety set of wooden steps. It almost seemed as if the light was being swallowed by the dark, and none of us could see any further than the first few steps. Ben nudged my shoulder, and passed me another flashlight. I know I glared at him, but, this had been my idea, so I had to agree to go in first.
The loud creaking of the wooden steps stabbed out in the dark, seemingly announcing our arrival, and hearing the stressed creaking of the wood did nothing to lessen my panic. I could feel my stomach twisting into knots as my level of fear grew. What if someone were in here? What if the rotted wood split under the weight of our bodies? Anything could happen, and we would be in serious trouble either way. We were breaking the law, after all. Finally, my foot touched a solid, dirt floor, and I stopped to catch my breath. I jumped when Mark touched my back, and moved aside for my friends. The beams of our flashlights danced around the root cellar, tracing over wooden beams, old potato sacks, and a dirt floor covered with broken jars and tin cans. We whispered quietly about what we were seeing, and began looking for another set of stairs, or at least a door that would lead us out of the cellar. We moved in a tight bunch, dusty beams of light tracking all over the room. I shined my light in the direction of the stairs, and saw a small, boarded up door. The door was only about three and a half feet tall, like something one would see in a child’s playroom. I moved slowly, curious to see if I could remove the wood barring the door with as little sound as possible. Turned out that the wood was the door. Suddenly, Lindsay’s beam flashed off the metal of a doorknob on the other side of the room, and she called out to me in a loud whisper. I wish I would have ended the adventure then, not giving anyone a chance to think about finding out what was on the other side of that door. I failed.
Mark and Lindsay, hand in hand, moved toward the door, and noisily pulled it open. Thick piles of dirt and splintered wood rained down into the cellar as we climbed the four concrete stairs into what looked like a kitchen. Ben muffled a sneeze and swung his flashlight beam across the floor. There was a faded pattern of tiles lining the floor, and what looked like furniture from several decades ago strewn all over the room. It appeared as if nesting rats and scurrying insects were the only current residents, and that no one had been inside this place for years. However, if that were true, I wondered why I felt like the house was watching me. My friends and I stayed in a tight group as we moved through the kitchen and into a room that looked like a family room. An overstuffed floral sofa lined one wall, and there were two matching chairs sitting in the center of the room. Mice had clearly been the most recent guests, and I shuddered as my flashlight beam flitted over one chew-hole after another. It was then that Ben announced that we should split up, motioning to the stairs that twisted up toward the second floor.
I disagreed, arguing that the wood might be rotten, but was quickly overruled. After all, it was my idea to creep around the old Kinder farmhouse in the first place, I was reminded. Mark and Lindsay volunteered to explore the second floor, and Ben grabbed my jacket sleeve to drag me toward the back hallway. I followed Ben, feeling my heart kick every time a stair creaked. The hallway was very narrow, and almost every door was opened, leading into various rooms. I shined my light into one of the rooms, noticing that much of the décor was aimed at a young boy. Even in the scattered flashlight beams I could make out the colors of patterned wallpaper, and wooden remnants of furniture. Glancing at the floor in front of me, I whispered to Ben, and walked farther into one of the rooms. We followed a trail of yellowed coloring pages, marked up with black scribbles. A child’s drawings covered every wall, some of innocent depiction, like clouds, a house, a stick figure family; but many more were sinister. Pictures of black-clawed demons, torn down landscapes, and the like. More than one seemed to be dedicated to show the harsh butchering of animals and stick figures. The drawings were in stark contrast to the rest of the room. Toys and clothes were scattered on the floor, and a metal bedframe was pushed up against a boarded-up window. It all seemed so…sweet, until my light flashed across something made of metal. It was a cage. I could feel my eyes widen as I crept to the far end of the room. The cage was large enough to hold a great Dane, and took up the whole back wall. I could see a ratty, stained mattress on the floor, and what looked like two dog dishes shoved in one corner, dead flies and maggots filled the two dishes, and my hand flew up to my mouth as I tried to stifle a gag. There were a few scraps of cloth, and a rotted skein of yarn near a broken mirror that had been wired to the far side of the cage, the side farthest from the metal door. Broken glass shards were strewn across the floor of the cage, and made small trails throughout the room, most of which looked like they were caked in mud, or something of the sort. Then, I saw Ben’s flashlight beam bounce off a rusted metal name plate on the door of the cage. I moved my face closer, and pushed the cage door closed. The metal squeaked loudly, and I squinted closely at the rusted black lettering. The name said ‘JONAS’. I grabbed a fistful of Ben’s shirt, and showed him what I had found. The Kinder family had kept Jonas locked up like an animal, allowing the child only the barest of entertainment. Paper, crayons, perhaps a toy here and there, and as I scanned the floor of the cage more carefully, I noticed the ravaged carcasses of birds, rats, and other creatures were strewn around the space. Perhaps his family knew what Jonas was, and tried to keep him contained. I didn’t know, but that kind of treatment would have driven me insane. Ben and I whispered about heading up to the second floor to check on Mark and Lindsay when Lindsay’s scream pierced the heavy silence.
I spun around just in time to see Ben’s flashlight beam swinging in different directions. I yelled for him, racing to the second-floor stairway. I know he had been fast on my heels, but by the time I had ascended the steps halfway, he was gone too. All I could hear were muffled screams, and terrible gurgling sounds. There were heavy footsteps ambling down the hallway, just above me, and they were mixed with dragging sounds. I looked around, but there was nowhere I could hide, on this floor anyway. I turned off my flashlight and silently crept back down the stairs to the kitchen doorway. Ben’s flashlight was rocking back and forth on the floor, partially illuminating the stairway, streaks of a dark red color, almost black, in fact, were sliding over the beam. My eyes slowly adjusted to the darkness around me, and I could hear the dragging getting closer. There was no sign of Ben, and I was too frozen in fear to call out for any of my friends. Instead, I slipped toward the back of the hallway, toward a set of double doors, partially open. As good as any place to hide.
There was nothing but a large, oblong table and chair set in the middle of the room. I couldn’t turn my light on again, and possibly give myself away, so I quietly lowered down onto my hands and knees, and crawled underneath the table, praying that I would be safe. The footsteps edged closer, and I quietly scooted toward the back of the table, and as far away from the doors as possible. Within seconds, one of the doors crashed into the wall, knocking bits of plaster and rotten wood loose. Between the darkness and the fervent panic, I was feeling, it was difficult to discern the figure standing in the doorway. Heavy boots stomped around the side of the table, and I raised my hand to my mouth to muffle my breathing. Then, I heard Lindsay’s quiet sobbing. Whoever this maniac was, he had been dragging Lindsay’s body through the house by her hair. Tears silently slid down my face as I looked on in horror at the injuries Lindsay had sustained. Her left eye was gone, and her lips were torn away in many places, revealing bloody, broken teeth. Her long blond hair was matted with blood, at least what was left of her hair. It appeared as though in her struggle, chunks had been torn out. Her arms and legs, compounded with broken bones, flopped and slid across the uneven floor grotesquely. I couldn’t even fathom why she was still alive. Heavy footsteps mixed with guttural grunts came closer, and I saw her body being jerked upward and could hear a loud thudding noise above me. Then, came a loud bang, like a sledge hammer. Lindsay fell silent. I watched the large legs and feet standing next to the table, shivering in terror. It was Jonas. Had to be. But that would mean he was almost ninety-seven years old! I watched him slowly circle the table; he made several passes, then suddenly grabbed the edge flipping the table and Lindsay’s lifeless body onto the floor. I looked up at the hulking figure which seemed to be made of dark smoke and bones. His eyes were red, reflective spots, and even in the darkness I could see his maddening smile. Jonas was real, and his farmhouse had kept him all these years. Surrounding this demonic shadow man, I could see dirty, gray, gauze-like figures hovering around the room. Two of the figures moved closer to me, and I tried to kick and slide away, only to have my back slam into the overturned table. I was too petrified to scream, but looked up anyway. The hollow eyes of Ben and Mark stared back. Their deaths hadn’t been kind, the ghost-like mangled limbs were a silent testimony of that. I could hear their gritty, harsh, whispering voices in my head; it almost sounded like a chant: Run and find a place to hide, this house won’t let you go. Jonas likes to play this game before your blood will flow. I ran. I didn’t need to be told twice.
I headed back through the kitchen, hoping that the cellar exit was still open to me, despite the warning about the house. I was in total darkness, straining to see the many obstacles in my path, so it was no surprise that I tripped on the concrete stairs that led back down the that dirt-floored room. I landed hard, and heard my right ankle pop. I knew it was broken, but that didn’t stop me from pulling myself up to the cellar doors. I slammed my body against the wood, hoping that it was weakened enough to give way. When they buckled upward, I could see the new chain and padlock through the slat. No way out, and I couldn’t go back. Wracked with pain I scooted my body back down the stairs, catching sight of the small door again. No choice. I could feel the warmth of blood from the compound fracture on my ankle, but I managed to pull the little door open and crawl inside. The room stunk of rotten cloth and dead rats, and as my fingers slid across the dirt floor, I could feel bugs skittering all around me. When my hand closed around a flashlight, I could barely contain my relief. The switch was stiff, but the low beam it produced was more than welcome. Unfortunately, my giddiness for the light was leeched away by the horrors collected in the room. Human remains in a jumble were piled up against the walls. All were in a different state of decay; some were bare of flesh, and some had some pulpish meat still attached. This must have been what some of those drawings in Jonas’s room depicted. Perhaps in his desperation to get out of his cage, he made a deal with the Devil.
I can hear scraping sounds coming closer, I hope whoever finds this will understand that if this house stands, people will lose their loved ones. So, please, burn this house, raze it to the ground in any way you can, just please let us out…let…us…out…Olly Olly oxen free….