Why would anyone willingly take their family, their children, into a place that was supposed to be haunted? Why take that risk?
‘Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.’ – Shirley Jackson
The house had a long history, as houses of its ilk were wont to do. There were many deaths attributed to the place and it wasn’t somewhere that Lorraine had ever really considered going. She tried to stay away from such houses, actually, knowing that such histories usually meant that the places were atmospherically heavy even if they weren’t actually haunted as most people understood the definition of the word. That it was known – or suspected – to be haunted was just another reason to stay away. Legends and rumors, no matter how outlandish or exaggerated, had to start somewhere. There was usually a grain of truth that remained through the retellings. Even if they were buried so deeply that they were overlooked by anyone who might be listening.
It surprised her that people still bought such houses, just as it surprised her that people were okay with selling them to others. But, even her gifts didn’t give her a complete and indisputable understanding of people and so she went with what she was given, trying to figure things out as she could and letting go of what she couldn’t. People were a mystery in some ways and they always would be.
It wasn’t just people who bought this Hill House, however. It was a family. And that was something she understood even less than everything else. Why would anyone willingly take their family, their children, into a place that was supposed to be haunted? Why take that risk? She couldn’t imagine taking her daughter anywhere near such a place. But, maybe they were nonbelievers. If they didn’t think there was anything to fear, then they would see no reason not to move right on in.
This particular family, the Crains, had done just that. They had bought the house and moved in with the intentions of flipping it to sell at the end of the summer. A perfectly legitimate goal in most peoples’ eyes. Even if the house was much more than that. It was huge for one thing, a ‘fixer upper’ for sure. But, it was also beautiful and elegant and it was easy to see how, with some work, someone would desire the place for their own.
If they could get someone to confirm that the rumors of it being haunted were false, mere stories told by the bored seeking to scare people for no reason other than the amusement it brought to them.
That was where Lorraine and her husband came in. It wasn’t every day that they got the request to prove that a house was not haunted. In fact, they never did. It was always the opposite. People who believed their houses and/or families were haunted or possessed wanted help in getting rid of whatever entities or presences might be lurking around their homes and loved ones. Sometimes they did prove otherwise, finding perfectly legitimate and normal reasons for the events that led people to believe there were spirits after them that they wanted nothing more than to get rid of. Always there was that belief that they needed that help and the fear that something bad was going to happen before it could be given.
In a roundabout way it made sense, however. This family wanted to spruce the place up and then sell it when they were finished. A lot of people shared the belief that it was stupid to buy a haunted house, proven or not. If they could prove otherwise, then the Crains would be set to go when the renovations were complete. Their names and reputations were fairly well known – despite the skeptics that existed everywhere – so their agreement and investigation would actually help out a lot in the end.
A brief discussion between Lorraine and her husband and the deal was made. They would drive out to investigate this house that was said to be haunted but believed not to be, but maybe might be and would find out the truth for themselves. If nothing else, the fact that it was a different request made it at least interesting. Not that they ever lacked for ‘interesting’ in most of these cases.
As they approached the house, Lorraine knew that this wasn’t going to go the way they all hoped. It wasn’t going to be an in and out, ‘this house is clean’ type of investigation. Something was here. Maybe more than one something. Maybe it was the house itself. Or some combination. She wasn’t sure yet, but she was sure that she didn’t like it. She was also sure that she was going to like it even less once they were actually inside.
She shivered slightly as they got closer to the door, looking up at the mansion that seemed to suddenly blot out the sun completely, blanketing them in something that was more than just a physical darkness. She didn’t realize she had paused until she heard Ed speaking her name. Blinking she turned her gaze to him and shook her head. “I’m okay.” She murmured in response to his questioning and concerned gaze. She knew he was thinking that maybe they should say that they had changed their mind and leave while they still could. She also knew that she was going to do no such thing.
He worried about her as she worried about him and yet they still did these things because it was what they were meant to do. Even if this wasn’t supposed to be what they were used to, she had a feeling it was going to turn out that way. Or worse. She wasn’t sure what they were facing, but it wasn’t good.
She touched his hand briefly in understanding and appreciation that he hadn’t voiced what she knew he was thinking. He hadn’t asked if she wanted to leave or told her that they needed to. He trusted her to make her own decisions, even if he didn’t like them. “I love you.” She murmured before she turned to lead the way to the door.
Her hand hovered briefly over the button for the doorbell, before she took a deep breath and pushed it, listening as the chimes echoed through the house. There was a somberness to the shadows cast by the house that she could feel without trying to reach out or sense it. It was just there and she could only imagine how it felt inside. She refrained from wrapping her arms around herself as she waited for someone to answer the door.
When it was pulled open she was surprised to see not the adults who had asked them to come, but a child. A young dark-haired girl peered up at them, one gloved hand on the door as she stood slightly behind it, neither inviting them in nor telling them to leave. Cautious, but not necessarily afraid. Strangers weren’t always a bad thing, after all.
“Hello.” Lorraine got over her surprise rather quickly and offered a friendly smile along with the greeting. “My name is Lorraine and this is my husband, Ed. Your parents asked us to come and look at the house.” She was certain that this was one of the Crain children, even without having met any of them, and she didn’t lie about why they were there. She just didn’t immediately reveal the whole truth without knowing what the children knew or experienced or didn’t. She didn’t want to scare this girl needlessly. “May we come in?”