The Ghost Hunter
This is an alternate uber story. The physical descriptions of the two lead characters may remind you of two others we all know and love, but all characters in the story are from my own imagination. This story is an original work and is copyrighted by the author. It cannot be sold or used for profit in any way. Copyright 2011.
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“Hello.” The blonde haired woman called out clearly as she slowly strode down the second floor hallway of the old Blackstone mansion. The stately building was over one hundred years old, and had been passed down from generation to generation of the same family. Fires, winds and floods, the house had withstood it all, if not always in tact. But it was always lovingly refurbished by the proud family. Perched on its own island off the coast of the north western United States, the manor looked inviting on a sunny day. But it could look just as ominous at the heart of a storm when rough seas would pound at the shore and lightning flashed against the dark windows. The three story structure was impressive at any time.
But the mansion held a secret. It had been empty for years, haunted by the memories of the Blackstone family, its lost souls and missed opportunities.
She knew the house well, having conducted her search night after night. The woman turned into one of the five bedroom suites on the second floor. “If anyone else is here in this house, please talk to me. I want to find you. I need to find you. Please don’t be afraid of me. I won’t hurt you.” She diligently searched every night, patiently waiting for the person she hoped she would eventually find. The one she had to find.
The hours dragged on slowly, and after an all night hunt, she came up empty once again. With a sigh of disappointment, she gave up when she saw the eastern sky brighten, signaling the end of another night. Home. She thought tiredly. She wasn’t sure exactly where that was anymore. But she headed for the place she spent her days, until another night was upon her.
* * *
Tanner Gideon sat in the library on Saturday afternoon, as she had almost every Saturday afternoon for the last three months. She scoured old newspapers, local magazines, archives, whatever might contain information she was looking for. Having everything at her fingertips in electronic form made it much easier, but it still took hours at a time for her to do the research. Every few months she hunted for a new adventure. Somewhere to search, something to explore, somehow to prove, if only to herself, what many others failed to believe in.
When Tanner was sixteen, she had a life changing paranormal experience. That had sent her on a path to search for evidence of that life beyond death. She had never told another living soul about her spiritual encounter, keeping the event personal, only reliving it in her mind and her heart. And replay it did every time she sat down to do her searches.
Tanner was visiting her Aunt Kate’s farm in the middle of summer. Late one Sunday night, everybody else in the house was fast asleep, but for some unknown reason, young Tanner was wide awake. The guest bedroom was in the attic of the old farmhouse. She was sharing with her sister, so Tanner quietly went to the window to wait for sleep to come. She looked out across the backyard and beyond, to the barn where the horses were kept. Lifting the heavy glass pane, the breeze blew in, ruffling her dark hair. Although her life was a happy one, she loved her family, she had plenty of friends, Tanner always felt a little hollow spot deep in her soul. It made her contemplate in the quiet times. Yes, she was different. But being gay had never been a problem with her family or friends. That was not the problem at all. But she could never figure out what was.
As Tanner stared at the big red barn, the door slowly opened. Her first instinct was to run and tell her uncle that there was a trespasser on the property. But her body didn’t follow that thought. Her blue eyes continued to peer through the darkness as the door stood open, but did not move any further. Then an arm, carrying a bucket emerged from behind the door. A body followed. Tanner gasped when she realized that the figure was translucent. Then Tanner cried when she realized that it was her grandmother. Her beloved grandmother had passed away just two years earlier. Tanner adored her Gran, they had a very close relationship. The ghostly figure ducked back into the barn and returned with another bucket. When her grandmother was alive, it had been a small working dairy farm, providing for the surrounding area. Tanner had seen her Gran perform manual milking many times. But the woman usually only did it when the children were visiting. Tanner smiled as she remembered those happy times. Before stepping back into the barn, Gran looked up, making direct eye contact with Tanner. She smiled and waved. The woman’s voice spoke inside Tanner’s head.
“Be happy my darling. I know you are. But I also know you question your place in the world. You are wonderful and beautiful. You will have a fantastic life. What you fear is loneliness. But don’t. Your soul’s mate awaits. There will be signs and clues to her identity. Be aware and you will find her. I cannot visit you in this way again, but know that your family on this side loves you. We watch. And we guide. There are others who may help you along the way. But be patient. Although I know that’s not easy for you.” Tanner laughed , knowing it was true. “I love you my beautiful Tanner.”
“I love you Gran,” the teen whispered emotionally. Tanner wanted to ask questions, to know more. But she remained mute and still as her grandmother faded from sight.
After that night, Tanner’s life went on normally. She played sports, dated frequently, graduated in the top of her class at high school, and went on to collage to study environmental science. She had carefully watched for those signs her grandmother had told her about, and they led to the job that had brought her to the area just two years earlier. And only at this time in her career, did the twenty-nine year old have the time to pursue this quest. Tanner wanted to experience another paranormal encounter. She also felt that this search would lead her to her prophesied mate.
Shaking from her reverie, Tanner’s fingers began to tap at the computer keys once again, her eyes rapidly, but meticulously scanning the screen. The information specialists in the library knew her on sight and were always eager to help her in any way.
Today they had guided Tanner to a series of articles from some magazines that had been published several years earlier.
The blue eyes were tiring quickly, having been at it for almost four hours, but Tanner felt that she was close to finding her next case. She always got a tickle down her spine when the right choice was presented to her. In the past she had explored an old building that had been a clinic, a school house and a small secluded cemetery. While she had gathered some impressive electronic evidence, Tanner had yet to come into contact with another specter.
Within five minutes, Tanner stopped as a photograph caught her attention The picture was in black and white, but the image was mesmerizing. The young woman in the photo was beautiful, smiling with laughing eyes…happy. The article beneath was titled, Mysterious Disappearance of Local Woman. Sienna Avalon, heir to the Blackstone fortune, was last seen at a charity benefit masquerade party for St. Francis Children’s Hospital on October 31. She left the party alone, just before midnight, but failed to show up to work the next morning. It went on with more details, which wasn’t much since there didn’t seem to be any evidence of foul play. The car, that the woman drove away from the party in, was in the home’s garage. All of her clothes and personal items, including her passport were still in the house and untouched. The woman just seemed to have vanished from the face of the Earth. Sienna Avalon lived alone in the home at the time. Nothing was amiss, she was just gone. The article was dated 2006. Five years, Tanner thought to herself. She’s been missing five years. I hate to think it, but more then likely she is dead. Why else would a seemingly jubilant young woman just disappear. Maybe she can help me to find what I need.
Her search finally had a specific focus. She needed to find everything she could about the Blackstone family and their ties to the city. Not much was ever written about the personal side of the family members. But their philanthropic endeavors were well covered in the media throughout the years. But Tanner needed to know more. She realized it was quickly becoming an obsession. One of the librarians soon led her to two sources. Someone from the city would be able to tell her about the house and to someone else who may be able to tell her about the family.
* * *
Tanner learned that no other family member had come forward to accept physical possession of the house. But on paper the home and the island still belonged to the family, and because the grounds were kept up and the property taxes paid every year, the city could not interfere.
It seemed a little unusual to Tanner that the grand mansion stood unoccupied, but there could be many logical reasons for that, or some not so logical, especially since some wealthy people leaned toward eccentricity. She may never know. But she hoped to find some answers inside that house. Even though she would be trespassing, it wouldn’t stop her from trying to find what she sought.
* * *
“Well, here I am again,” the young explorer said to the deserted house. Another night, and more of nothing. I don’t know why I torture myself like this. But then what else have I got to do. Starting in the garage that still housed several old cars, now dusty and rusty, she walked the perimeter, looking for secret vaults or hidden doors leading to unknown rooms. Climbing into the storage loft, the woman methodically and carefully searched through old trunks and boxes that were nearly falling apart with age. The boxes held clothing, many family mementos and photos, but no helpful clues.
Moving inside the main house, the quest continued…as futile as it may be. But time was running short. The days had turned into months since she began the pursuit. And hope was quickly waning. Maybe there had never really been much hope to begin with. But she wouldn’t give up until the very end.
The second floor kitchen was still just as empty as it been last time, but if she listened carefully, she could hear the rattling of pots and pans, and the laughter from the family cook. She could even smell the delicious aromas of a Thanksgiving turkey and pumpkin pie, and the sweet cookies made by the dozens at Christmas. But those ghostly echoes were not what she wanted to find.
The darkness deepened and on to another room she went.
* * *
The next Saturday afternoon had Tanner visiting The Silver Oak retirement home. Vivian Edwards now resided there after a lifetime of service to the Blackstone family. Tanner was told that the woman had turned down many interviews about her employers, preferring to keep their confidences. But Tanner hoped she could change the woman’s mind in some little way.
Tanner eyed the stately, gated complex which was located outside of town, in the middle of a peaceful forest. This retirement home was obviously where the wealthier seniors of the surrounding cities had chosen to live out their remaining years.
Mrs. Edwards had agreed to a visit, so Tanner was granted entry at the main gate. A cheerful attendant greeted her at the entrance and led her down several bright and airy hallways to the main meeting room. At three in the afternoon, the room had about two dozen people scattered about, a gathering of residents and family members. The attendant pointed to a back corner and Tanner made her way there. The lady she was there to meet was reading, so Tanner approached slowly, hoping to catch the woman’s attention before she reached her. Two large corner windows let in the day’s bright sun, clearly illuminating the woman’s face. She sat tall in her chair, despite her eighty three years. Her hair was gray and attractively arranged. Glasses sat upon her nose as her otherwise clear eyes scanned the pages of the book in her wrinkled, but strong hands. Her attention was obviously engrossed in the story, because she did not notice the visitor approaching.
Tanner softly cleared her throat. “Excuse me, Mrs. Edwards.”
The woman looked from her book. “Hello,” she said with a slight accent that Tanner couldn’t quite place. “You must be Miss Gideon.” Tanner acknowledged with a smile. “Please have a seat,” the elderly lady said, indicating the chair opposite hers. Tanner did and she continued. “Normally, I wouldn’t allow a visit from a stranger. But there was something innocent and engaging about your request.”
“Well, thank you for seeing me Mrs. Edwards.”
“Call me Vivian please. I understand that you wanted to know about young Miss Sienna?”
“Yes, that‘s right.”
The gray head shook in thought. “Such a tragedy. I didn’t know her well. She was only ten when I retired. And she and her mother never lived in the house. Sienna’s father did not carry the family blood, but he passed when the child was just four. They did visit the grandparents often though. Sienna was a quiet girl, playing by herself most times.”
“Do you know anything about her disappearance?”
“Just what I read in the newspapers. I haven’t spoken to any of the family since Sienna’s grandparents passed on. I believe her mother now lives somewhere in Europe.”
“Did the family have any enemies?”
Vivian got a twinkle in her eye. “Most wealthy folks have enemies, now matter how nice they are. It’s just jealousy.”
“And the Blackstones were always nice?”
The older woman gave a small smile. “I don’t suppose I would say that.” Her expression turned serious. “But I also won’t say anymore about that.”
Tanner was disappointed, but was told to expect this attitude. “I understand.”
The elderly woman carefully leaned forward and placed a wrinkled hand on Tanner’s arm. “If you are searching for Miss Sienna,” she said, “I wish you good luck. As happy as they seemed on the outside, and they were, that family had its share of tragedies. And maybe I shouldn’t…”
“Please,” Tanner begged. “I know you want to protect them, and I will too. I will keep your confidence.”
Vivian looked deeply into Tanner’s eyes, seeing sincerity and something else that she didn’t quite understand, and could only describe as desperation. This realization brought her sadness. She wanted to help this nice young woman, but she did have promises to keep. She sighed. “I don’t know if this will help…but this not the first odd disappearance or mishap to happen in that family. I don’t know any specific details, but something peculiar has happened to at least one person in each generation. I believe Sienna’s uncle fell victim to such a happening.”
Tanner’s vision drifted inward as she pondered the meaning of the vague information.
“Are you okay Dear?” Vivian asked.
“Yes. I just have more questions now then when I came in.” Tanner smiled and thanked the woman for her time.
“Would you do me one favor Miss Gideon?”
“Of course, if I can.”
“If you find out what happened to that beautiful girl, would you come back and tell me.”
* * *
This was no longer just a search for paranormal evidence. The sudden intrigue and lack of information surrounding this family was suddenly riveting to Tanner. No matter how hard she tried, Tanner came up empty again and again where details were concerned. Now it was a challenge. She had found a Blackstone family tree at a nearby church. From there she found many death certificates, each listing a cause, but few alluding to odd circumstances. She did discover that Sienna’s uncle had died of an apparent heart attack. While that was seemingly a natural cause, for it to happen when he was only thirty two, did seem odd. There were other, some may call unusual, causes of death, but nothing that screamed murder or paranormal. Maybe this family just had more than their share of bad luck.
Armed with what little she knew, it was time for Tanner to visit the Blackstone estate.
* * *
Tanner rented a small motorboat to get herself to the island where the Blackstone estate was located. There was a private bridge to the island, but it had been blocked off at the request of other family members, with the specific purpose of keeping trespassers away. But they couldn’t control the waters, and Tanner Gideon would not be the first person to set foot on the secluded property since the owner went missing. Most of those were teenagers visiting there on a dare. And most had left without the scare they were hoping for.
It was a calm, early October evening, but there was a chill in the air, so Tanner zipped up her black jacket and pulled the hood over her head when she was half way across the water. The sun was setting beyond the huge house, casting the front façade in gray shadow, but Tanner’s eyes, with the help of binoculars, scanned the many windows. Nothing caught her attention, but that was not surprising given the distance. She guided the boat around the backside of the island where she knew the dock was located. Smoothly guiding the vessel against the well worn, wooden pier, Tanner then cut the engine. The sudden, absolute quiet was at first disconcerting with no wind to rustle tree branches and the chilly air keeping the bugs away. She remained seated in the boat for several more minutes, just looking around, taking in the smell of the water and preparing herself for the night. A heavily wooded area obscured her view of the house, almost making her feel lost in the wilderness. A large fish darted out from beneath the dock, splashing noisily.Tanner chuckled silently. Is that a sign to get my butt in gear and get started.
Not the least bit apprehensive, she grabbed her rolled up sleeping bag and backpack filled with ghost hunting equipment. Trudging up the trail, the first fallen leaves of autumn crunched beneath her boots. As the trail meandered through the overgrown trees, Tanner stopped to get a flashlight out of her pack. Shining the beam through the trees off to her left, the light struck an ornate metal gate. Leaving the trail, she made her way over to the building standing behind the intricate iron barrier. Carefully pushing open the gate, the eerie creaking noise made her teeth hurt. Inching closer, Tanner soon realized it was the family mausoleum. An etched glass door protected the remains lying in rest. Tanner wiped off a clean spot on the otherwise dirt covered glass and peered inside. She only looked a moment before deciding not to disturb this sacred place any further. Quickly moving back to the path, Tanner headed on to the house as the skies above darkened with the oncoming night.
Her focus clear in her mind, Tanner spotted the edge of the woods just ahead. An owl sounded somewhere above her head. “Sienna Avalon,” she said, in answer to the bird’s vocalized question. “That’s who I want to find.”
It seemed as though within the next step, the black overcame the twilight. Tanner switched to a stronger beam, cutting through the murky dark. Not sure whether to illuminate the path or the way ahead, Tanner stepped carefully, finally breaking through the trees, and out into the side yard of the main house. This close, it looked even bigger and more impressive than before. Tanner made her way down the cracked brick walk, which was bordered by overgrown, scraggly hedges. Shining the light ahead, she saw the intricate patterns of several spider webs crossing the path. Not wanting to get bitten, she carefully separated the silken strands with a stick, knowing they would be rebuilt by morning. Creatures, of the four legged kind, scurried through the underbrush, squeaking and chasing, drawing her attention…until something else, something bigger, moved in front of the trees off to the side. She had only caught it from the corner of her eye, but as her light flashed to the area, there was nothing out of the ordinary to be seen. “Okay,” she said softly, “if you are hiding in the trees, I’m going inside now. Please join me.”
A sudden gust of wind blew up as Tanner reached the side door. Even though the house was empty she just didn’t feel comfortable going to the grand, main entrance. Taking a deep breath, she shone the light on the handle. Surprisingly it turned with her first try. Like with any haunted…or just long abandoned house, the door creaked as she pushed it open. Tanner swept the light from side to side as she took a tentative step inside. It was a hallway. One foot after another, she moved down the dark corridor. Tanner wasn’t afraid, but she didn’t like to be startled. She knew from experience that things in these empty houses tended to come crashing to the ground, whether from normal or paranormal reasons. Sometimes, animals would find their way inside and cause chaos. Whatever the cause, the hair on the back of her neck was always at the ready.
The large kitchen she entered had plenty of shiny surfaces for her light to bounce off of. She took a minute to quickly wave her flashlight around the room, thinking that it reminded her of a disco ball. The moment of levity broke the tension that had built up inside, and brought a tiny smile to her face.
Getting back to the investigation, Tanner brought out a small, handheld meter that would measure the amount of electromagnetic fields in the immediate area. High readings were often an indicator of a paranormal presence. But the readings were flat. Pulling out a dusty bar stool, Tanner had a seat and placed a small recording device on the table top in front of her. “Is anyone here with me?” she asked in a calm voice. Allowing a few seconds for a possible answer, she asked another question. “I would really like to hear from Sienna Avalon. If you are here, in this house, would you please speak to me? People want to know what happened to you.” After several more questions, Tanner plugged in an ear piece to review the recording. A lack of answers caused her disappointment, but not determent.
With the recorder in one hand and the light in another, she moved into the next room.
* * *
The persistent blonde was back again. She was currently in the attic, prying up a loose floorboard she had previously missed. She got excited for about forty seconds. But the empty space below quickly deflated her buzz. Shoving the board back into place, she cursed till the air was blue. Another dead end. She looked out the window, watching the sea waters whip up under the growing wind. The outside turmoil echoed her inner frustration. The tears couldn’t flow, so she merely hung her head, almost resigning herself to the end. I just can’t keep doing this. There is nothing here. She plopped down in a nearby rocking chair to ponder her next move.
* * *
Tanner slowly climbed the stairs to the third floor. Shining her light along the wall, she studied the family photos hanging there. Just about every member of the family was represented. There were some of babies and older children, some proudly displaying service to their country, a few in graduation cap and gown and a few more formal portraits. Tanner couldn’t clearly see the photos higher up on the wall, but the lack of pictures of Sienna Avalon made her sad, if not a little angry. Maybe it has something to do with her disappearance. Tanner moved up a step to get a closer look at one of the baby pictures, but before her eyes could focus…
The beam of light flew to the ceiling as a noise sounded above her. Her heart rate increased. She had heard some other noises during her hours here, but they were most likely the sounds of rats. This was a rhythmic sound. Tanner listened as it continued.
“Hello,” she shouted out excitedly.
In the attic, the blonde stopped her rocking abruptly. That was a voice. She listened as it called again. She almost cried. That’s the first vocal sound I’ve heard since I started this whole thing. The blonde moved swiftly toward the attic door.
Tanner carefully maneuvered the last four steps and peered down the long hallway, into the darkness. She was careful with the light, not wanting to scare away any potential lurking spirit. “I’ve come here to speak with you. Can you show yourself to me?” There was movement at the far end of the hall. Even in the dim, Tanner could see the door slowly swing open. Something moved out. Tanner shuffled her foot across the hardwood floor, and followed with the other.
The two figures approached each other with tentative steps, stopping about fifteen feet apart. Tanner gradually raised her flashlight to illuminate the area ahead of her, careful to keep it out of the other’s face. So far, so good. They’re not running away.
“Are you real?”
To be continued…soon
Author’s note: I didn’t intend to end it like this, I just ran out of time to finish, due to some unexpected work. But I won’t make you wait until next Halloween to read the ending. I do plan to post the rest before the end of the year. Thanks for reading.