The Witch House: Day 8 of the 13 Days of Occultober

A few months ago, my wife and I were out and about town, prowling yard sales in our small community. Stopping on Wabash Street, at the house of one of my childhood friends, I was surprised to find her there, helping her mom with her rummage.

As we chatted, another woman approached and joined in to reminisce about the old neighborhood. She asked when they had torn down the old house on the corner, to which my friend replied, “You mean the “Witch House”?

In the 1970s, the place we kids called Witch House sat quietly on the corner of Wabash and Marple. It had fallen into disrepair, crowned with a rusty tin roof and cloaked in weathered wood slat siding.

Whenever we played “Werewolf By Night”, my version of Hide-and-Go-Seek, Witch House was off-limits. Too many kids were scared of it.

Why “Witch House”? Well, for no other reason than that for a group of eight year old kids obsessed with Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew Mysteries, comic books, and late night horror movies, it looked like what we imagined a Witch House would.

One weekend, when I was spending the night in town with my paternal grandparents, we took to the streets after dark and biked across the brick roads and graveled alleys until we found ourselves outside the old ramshackle house.

Inside, we knew there was a witch or ghost or something else altogether unnatural in residence. We always had. That fateful night, we were going to find out.

Ditching our bikes in the bushes, we used a pry bar we’d liberated from one of our parent’s tool sheds to get past the swollen door and crept across the buckling wood floors. Yes, the house was empty, or nearly so, and it echoed and creaked with our every step, but there, in the front room sat a lone rocking chair. All by itself. Just sitting there.

We gathered around it and I took the lead, calling out for whatever hoary spirit that might call the place home to come before us. I used made-up incantations, combining language from Doctor Strange comics and those odd occult books I rummaged through in the public library.

The air was humid and we were all sweating profusely.

Then it happened.

The chair began to rock, ever so slowly. It creaked and lilted. And we gasped and ran and climbed on our bikes and rode away as fast as our legs could propel us. And we laughed. Nervously at first and then slowly in that uncontrollable way only kids can, joyously.

We believed we’d experienced contact with something beyond the world of the living.

It was just a few years later that the house was razed, and now there simply stood an empty lot. As vividly as I remember those long ago days, it was that more recent visit that I reflect on now. I could see it in her eyes as she recalled that house that was, of how it had effected us as children, of how even now, after it had long since been put to the torch, it still left its shadow on us.

That Witch House had cast a spell on us many years before, and a ghost of it still remained.

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