When I lived with my parents, our house was next to a cemetery. My father claimed it was cheaper to live near the dead than the living and quieter, too. My bedroom window faced it, and I sometimes saw the grieving people standing around a grave as they said goodbye to a loved one. It affected me in many ways, and I became obsessed with death without realizing the darkness I was entering.
My father didn’t hear the random noises coming from there and never saw the occasional shadows moving among the graves. But I heard and saw everything.
And then came the day we were to move. My father died, and my mother said we couldn’t afford the house anymore. On our last day there, I got up the courage to walk into the cemetery. In the daylight, everything seemed alive, not dead. Under the bright sun, my fear ebbed, and I became more curious. I wanted to find out more and started to feel sad that we were leaving.
I passed the entrance gate, and a black cat walked out from behind a statue of an angel that stood over a young child’s grave. I remained frozen in place. Could it be the child’s spirit?
I had never seen that cat there before, despite staring out of the bedroom window for many years. Chills ran through me when the cat rubbed against my legs. I remained frozen in place until it purred. She followed me, and I named her Spooky. I mean, finding a black cat in a cemetery is spooky. I took her with me when I moved to a one-bedroom apartment in Cherry Hill.
It seemed like a peaceful community, but I missed the cemetery.
Maybe growing up next to a cemetery affected me more than I thought because I was drawn to the supernatural. I made a podcast and named it Catch the Dark. Before I knew it, Catch the Dark was on all the platforms in my local area. It was about cemeteries, death, ghosts, and all things dark.
And then I got an email. It started with my name, Jenna.
A guy said there was someone in an empty house near a cemetery. It had to be haunted.
I wondered if it was a hoax. I looked at the location and gasped. It was a house right next to a cemetery…my old house. I emailed him and said I would check it out for the podcast.
I drove to my old house.
Spooky was my partner now. Besides, she liked car rides, which made me wonder if she was the spirit of a child after all. Children loved car rides, and cats rarely did, so it made sense.
I got out and walked to my old house that neighbored the cemetery.
The house’s front yard was covered with trees and bushes. No wonder the woman who emailed thought it was haunted. It sure looked like it.
I fought back the urge to leave, unsure I could face the memories. I looked up at my bedroom window and thought I saw a face. Was it some kind of memory of me staring at the cemetery come alive, or was a ghost there?
The fallen leaves I stepped on made a loud crunching sound that gave my presence away. Nobody has lived here since I moved out. I’d heard someone bought the house then left before even moving in, and I wondered if something scared them away.
The wooden deck creaked when I stepped on it. I then caught myself and decided to look in the back window. It was too dark to see anything.
Fortunately, I knew how I could get inside. One of the rear back windows had never shut properly.
I found the defective window and pushed. The creaking sound when it opened startled me, even though I expected it. I started recording on my phone.
No light came from inside the house, and no sound. I was getting ready to enter through the window when the night came alive. I heard animals nearby. I looked back and saw a cat. I smiled at it, and it was joined by another one. I wondered if they wanted Spooky back.
I crawled into the window, lost my balance, and tumbled onto the wooden floor. Puffs of dust blew up around me. Inside, the musty air penetrated everything, and it was hard to breathe. I stumbled around in the dark.
I went upstairs, and each step stepped creaked louder until I reached the top one. Only one bedroom door was closed, and that was mine. After checking all the other ones, I prepared to open it. With my phone in one hand, I leaned against it and listened. Nothing indicated anyone was there, so I pushed the door open and entered the room.
I filmed it with my iPhone, then someone stepped into the room, and I turned around to stare into a man’s face. “Jenna.”
He knew my name. Before I could react, he reached out and grabbed my shoulder and pushed, and I fell to the floor. I struggled to catch my breath and used the bed to steady myself. The man moved closer to the window. Behind him, shadows filled the window.
I pulled myself up, and the man pushed me back against the wall. “I don’t know who you are!”
I yelled. “What do you want with me?”
Before he could answer, something scratched the window. It intensified until a small crack appeared. I saw cats. I grabbed the window latch, which was so old it flipped over quickly. I then shoved the window open just as the man reached for me. I collapsed as the cats climbed into the room. The man ran down the steps, followed by the cats.
I caught my breath and looked at my phone. The screen was cracked, but it still worked, and I called the police.
I glimpsed Spooky; she was watching from the car window. She looked sad.
It was almost completely dark now, and the cemetery was quiet. I sat on the front step like I did so often as a young girl in the past. Every muscle in my body hurt, but when I checked my phone, I smiled when I discovered that it recorded the fight. I turned it off when a police car approached.
The police took my phone with a promise to return it to me tomorrow when I came to the station.
“I’m Sargent Melissa. I’m glad you’re okay. A few people went missing around here, and that man might be responsible.”
“What about the ghosts?” I blurted out.
“Ghosts. There are no ghosts in Cherry Hill,” she said.
I shook my head, but didn’t argue, then went home with Spooky, and after a hot shower, I fell asleep in my bed but kept waking up when I thought dirt was being shoveled on top of me. Usually, it was Spooky kneading me like I was dough and she was making bread. But now, it was a nightmare.
I went to the police station and filled out a report.
Sargent Melissa handed me my phone. “We couldn’t find any fingerprints and used your phone video to identify the man.” She stopped and looked out the window. An ambulance drove by.
“Who is it?”
“I.” She paused. “Someone in the neighborhood.”
“Are you going to arrest him?”
I stood up. “Why not? He attacked me.”
“Because he is already dead. He has been for seven years.”
“He’s dead. He used to live a few houses over from your old house.”
The memories came of a creepy man. He watched me all the time and was caught peeping into teenage girls’ windows. He also sprayed the stray cats with his garden hose and threw things at them.
“I.” I didn’t know what to say. “Is he buried in the cemetery across the street?”
“So he could be alive?”
“No, that doesn’t make sense. The medical examiner is sure he was dead.”
“You said there are no ghosts in Cherry Hill.”
“Maybe I was wrong.” She handed me a card with her phone number on it. “Call me if you see him again.”
I logged onto my computer at the apartment, posted the recent information and recordings, and said it would be the last one.
Later, I checked the Catch the Dark podcast email, and there were lots of them, maybe even hundreds, and they all told dark stories they said were real and that nobody believed them. Other listeners sent money to me, begging me to keep Catch the Dark going.
I needed to think about the podcast. My mind was not the same. I have nightmares and can’t go near a cemetery without picturing that man. Sadness overwhelmed me at times. I knew that there was one place where I needed to go. I needed to face my fear.
I returned to the house; there were no cats in sight.
I let Spooky out. If she wanted to return to the cemetery cats, I couldn’t stop her. She ran to the child’s grave, where I first saw her, then disappeared behind the headstone. I sighed. I lost my only friend.
I went to the house. There was no evidence that anything had ever happened there except for the remnants of a piece of caution tape that clung to a bush.
I froze when I heard what sounded like tiny feet pattering across the wooden floors inside. I hoped they were mice. I wondered if Spooky would return to the child’s grave and vanish into the spirit world. I didn’t believe she was one of the local stray cats.
I saw shadows that could be ghosts throughout the house. I once heard someone say that once you fully believe in something, you will see it everywhere. I fully believed in ghosts now. I walked past lines on the wall where my parents measured my height. They stopped halfway up, and I fought back the tears.
I climbed the creaky stairs running my hand across the walls, thinking of all the memories here. I heard distant laughter and crying as my parents went through the years. I was their only child. I wonder why they never had another one. They never told me a reason. Why think of it now?
I reached my bedroom and saw the chair by the window. I sat down in it.
I stared out at the graveyard like I did so many years ago. It seemed like time went in a circle and brought me back here. I then took out my phone and emailed the guy who told me about the house. I hesitated, then added to let me know if he wanted to get a cup of coffee sometime and that I had quite a story to tell him.
I kept staring at the cemetery across the road. Shadows darted between the graves like they did so many years ago. I heard a noise and saw that the cats watched over the cemetery like sentinels. Spooky wasn’t with them. They looked up at me and seemed to acknowledge that I was a friend. Were there other ghosts out there? I remembered seeing them as a child. One thing was sure. There were ghosts in Cherry Hill.
I dozed off, then woke up to something rubbing against my leg. I almost yelled out, then looked down as Spooky curled up on the floor next to me. Maybe, she decided to stay with me instead of returning to the spiritual world. I had to trust that she wanted to be with me and not leave. After all, love is stronger than darkness. Isn’t it?