My interest in spooky stories is fairly well-known. I’ve read thousands of ghost stories in my life, and written a few, which prompted more than one person to ask if I had seen or heard anything “odd” while volunteering in the roadhouse at Historic Hat Creek, which has a reputation for being haunted.
My answer is a cautious “Not really.” Two startling things, with perfectly natural explanations, happened (one of which prompted me to write a very slight ghost story, below), while there was one thing that probably has a perfectly natural explanation. Probably.
First off were the footsteps on the second floor one morning, which gave me a fright when I returned to the roadhouse after getting a cup of coffee at the restaurant. It was still early, and no visitors had been announced, so when I heard the footsteps I froze, then did the classic movie thing of calling out “Hello?” in as steady a voice as I could manage.
It turns out that guests staying overnight get free run of the site, and someone had walked down to the roadhouse while I was getting coffee. On another occasion, while opening up for the morning, I glanced up the staircase as I passed by the foot of it. It was something I hadn’t been avoiding, exactly, but it was gloomy up there, and my imagination is pretty vivid, and I didn’t want to see … something … up there looking back at me.
You can imagine how I felt, then, when I glanced up and saw a pair of yellow eyes staring down from the darkness at the top of the stairs. It took me a few somewhat heart-stopping seconds to realize it was the black cat that hangs out at the site, and which had got inside, unseen by me.
Both these occurrences were completely natural (albeit startling at first). The third one? As I explored the upper floor one day, heading toward the back of the roadhouse, I heard what sounded unequivocally like a door closing softly behind me near the front of the building, where all the doors had been shut when I got up there (I had checked).
I work in an old building (built 1898), and old buildings make lots of odd noises. I know the sounds the Journal building makes; I don’t know the roadhouse (built 1861) and its sounds, so I’m sure there’s a perfectly natural explanation for what I heard. I just haven’t figured it out yet.
And that ghost story? Here it is, inspired by true events: a little pre-Halloween treat entitled “Cat Got Your Tongue?”
“How’s everything going during your first solo day at the roadhouse?” asked Paul, his voice breaking up slightly.
Poor reception, thought Margaret. “Not too bad,” she replied. “Quiet. Shelley brought us lunch from Dairy Queen, which was nice.”
“Glad it’s going well,” said Paul. “Did you see the note I left on the fridge about the chickens?”
“Yes,” laughed Margaret, “I did. They’re fine. Oh, and speaking of animals, you might have told me about the cat.”
A moment’s silence. “Cat?” asked Paul. His voice was a bit sharper than before, but Margaret did not notice.
“Yes,” she replied. “Big black thing. When I came in this morning I happened to look up the stairs and all I could see was this pair of yellow eyes at the top, staring at me. Well, you know how dark it is up there. It ran off as soon as it saw me, but I think it’s been up there most of the day, ’cause I keep hearing it. Sounds like it’s scratching something.”
Margaret paused, but before Paul could say anything she spoke again. “There it is again! Can you hear it? Boy, it’s really doing a number on something up there. I’ll call you back when I’ve got it outside. Bye.”
“There is no cat,” said Paul quietly into the now-silent phone. His voice was shaky, but it was not because of the poor reception. “Hasn’t been one there for years.”