Deep in the woods at the edge of the Conasaga river lies the charred remains of a cursed dwelling. Over a hundred years ago, it was reportedly reduced to ashen rubble by the manifestation of determined flames. Despite this judicious outcome, the mortal danger therein wasn’t completely eliminated. The purifying fire didn’t fully exorcize the evil that is said to dwell within.
Between dusk and dawn on ‘All Saint’s Day’, the bewitched ruins are said to rise up from the ashes. Like the mythical Phoenix, ‘it’ assumes its previous form and tries to lure unsuspecting victims. During those enchanted hours; any foolhardy soul who ventures through the threshold is said to be doomed to be stranded in the haunted past. All-too-soon; the unholy structure returns back to the mystical realm of spirits. The trapped occupant or occupants wander its labyrinth-like passageways and corridors forever.
“Like everyone else in town, I’d heard all the local wide-eyed tales. The ‘spectral mansion at the edge of the wilderness’ was one of the most popular, spellbinding yarns among the old-timers. Being a skeptic, I scoffed at hearing the fairy tale and dismissed it as being pure folklore. Any logical-minded person would have done the same, for that matter. About the only danger in such a remote area is the indigenous bear and snake population. At least those were my own words of wisdom when I originally heard the fanciful story.
Years later however, I happened to wander into the nearby woods and stumbled upon its fabled remains. At the very edge of the charred ruins I found a weathered tome; a stones-throw from the eastern wall of the razed dwelling. It was apparently penned by a man given to flights of diabolical fancy, or burdened by a terrible truth. I’ll let you decide which is true. I can only vouch for the authenticity of the ruins. It is most definitely there.
I, Samuel Archabald Hain have a cautionary tale to impart to you, my attentive reader. Many, if not all; will scoff at what I am about to reveal. I implore that you consider my words with an open mind. It may just save your life. It is too late for me.
I was on a hunting trip in the forest when I ventured into the Conasaga river valley; in search of my intended prey. Nightfall slipped up on me sooner than I expected. I set up camp for the night in a clearing at the edge of the creek. It was my hope that the hypnotic sounds of the swiftly-flowing water would lull me into an instant slumber. Unfortunately, the gleaming moonlight was so bright that it shined through my closed eyelids. I should have suspected that the glowing orb was luring me to my eternal demise but I was still ignorant to its malignant nature. Immediately I fell prey to its evil mission. My vision was drawn to the rays it cast on the opposite side of the creek.
To my utter disbelief; a stately mansion stood perched atop the river bank! There had been nothing but a shallow clearing in its remote location a few moments earlier. Of that I would sworn to anyone. I rubbed my eyes but the curious vision remained sharply in focus.
I was immediately reminded of the old folktale of the spectral house in the woods. I openly considered that I was only dreaming about the long-forgotten legend, but it all felt so real. I wasn’t willing to dismiss it as unconscious fantasy. I had to know.
Of my state of consciousness, I was uncertain. The fact was that it didn’t matter at the time. I had to see what was beyond the threshold. The heavy price I paid for that natural curiosity was eternal damnation. In this nightmarish limbo of lost souls that I dwell; I have cursed my fatal impulse a thousand times. About the only consolation I have left is that I may be able to help others avoid my fate. If you are reading this warning, it is you that I wish to save.
I staggered across the cool stream with hopes it would shock me awake; but I had no such luck. Once I stood upon the other bank, I was but a stone toss from the front door. The ominous structure bore the illusion of solidity but there were hints to the contrary. An occasional glimmer of moonlight shined through the walls to betray its spectral status. I could feel the hair on my neck stand on end as I sought the courage to step forward. A chilling wind at my back seemed to propel me toward it.
After an eternity of indecision, I stepped up to the door and turned the rustic knob. It offered no resistance to my intrusion. In my nervous stupor, I failed to recognize the implicitly accommodating mechanism of a trap. Although I didn’t know it at the time, my fate was sealed forever when the door closed behind me.
Once inside, I had a surreal feeling that the outside world I came from, no longer mattered. Reality began to slip away. Time itself held little meaning. The only thing that separated me from my freedom was just three inches of resistant wood and yet, I didn’t care. Strange feelings compelled to explore the mysteries of the upper floor. I marveled at how solid the banister felt as I walked up the spiral staircase of the damned. It was as if I was floating in a vivid, ethereal dream.
Each step creaked of aged timber but the expected echo of my footfalls was curiously absent. In retrospect; I realized the walls were not solid enough to produce an audible reflection. ‘Ghost houses’ have ‘ghost walls’; I reminded myself. The stairs creaked not because of my weight. They creaked because my solid body intruded upon it’s semi-solid mass.
In a large room upstairs, I found the glorious treasure of ten kingdoms scattered from the floor to the rafters. It was only awaiting a fool to happen along and claim it all. I’m ashamed to admit that I became that greed-intoxicated fool.
The trove of riches sparkled in the moonlight with an alluring glint.
There were golden goblets and ornate pieces of jewelry littering the floor in waist heigh piles; along with precious gems as large as a man’s fist. I stuffed my bulging pockets until they were spilling over. Then I hung a dozen golden chains around my neck to flee the phantom house with as much booty as I could escape with. In all the chaos and monetary lust, I was in deep denial about my fate.
As I went to depart, I was aghast to see that the staircase was nothing more than a faint reflection. I could actually pass my hands through the railing at the top. Frantically I sought another avenue to escape the second floor but there was none. A painful realization quickly set in. All the material riches in the world mean nothing to a man trapped in the lost realm of spirits. As if to put even more irony in my salted wounds, my bulging pockets were now full of worthless river sand. I could almost hear the unknown master of the house laughing at my predicament.
The spirit of the determined can be hard to kill. Although disheartened, I still hadn’t completely accepted my fate in ‘Phoenix House’. The survivor in me sought an alternative means to the ground floor. What first appeared to be a survivable leap; changed when I witnessed that the downstairs floor was nothing more than a hazy mist. I could see the foundation; two dozen feet below. A fall from that height would mean almost certain death. At the time I still had a fleeting hope of survival.
Even that desperation was about to fade; along with all evidence of this accursed place. A new level of panic set in to my sinking resolve. I watched as the house burst into phantom flames and slowly faded away. Soon I was the only physical entity left in the smoldering ruins. Fear of the unknown brought me unprecedented anxiety. I couldn’t fathom what my future held and I wouldn’t wish that empty feeling on my greatest enemy.
The truth is, there is no future here and there is no past. I’m just a part of Phoenix house now. One cog in a very complex, entrapment machine. Time has no meaning within these walls. I am uncertain of how many years has passed since I fell prey to it. What remains of my former self is subject to the same arcane rules that all parts of the mechanism are bound by. I cease to exist for all but one brief period per year. Upon that anniversary, I spring into action and attempt to document this woeful tale in my journal. Each entry brings me closer to completion of my truthful testimony; before the cycle ends. It is my hope that soon, no one else will ever have to share my wretched fate.
If you’ve found this testament on the riverbank, then I must have found a portal to the outside world; to toss it from. Please consider and accept my dire warning! You are very close to unimaginable danger! I can’t implore you enough to avoid the accursed place and to flee from here immediately. Save yourself before it is too late.
The trapped entity who was once
Samuel Archabald Hain”
That was the final entry in his compelling tale. Of the sanity of the author I can not vouch, but as stated before, I would be willing to testify that the ruins do indeed exist. I would also swear that I did find his discarded diary near the riverbank on the east side of the dwelling. I must confess that the previous dark mystique and his chilling words did hasten my departure. I didn’t dare stick around to see if the rest is true. Judge me a superstitious fool if you desire. I decided to err on the side of self-preservation.