The two sisters open the back door, holding the laundry basket between them. It is already quite dark outside; a starless night with no light anywhere. They were supposed to get these wet towels hung on the clothes line after dinner, before going up to their room. Their mother had gotten home from work around 5:30, put a load of towels in to wash, fixed dinner and she told them to take the laundry out and hang it on the line to dry. When the girls hear the shrill crying of the “spirits of the dead children” who lurk along the creek that flows behind the house, they slam the door, drop the basket and hurry up the steps. No way are they going out into the dark with so much supernatural activity going on. After all, they do live on Haunted Hogan Creek. “When are we ever going to get a dryer, anyway?” asks sister number one, not expecting an answer.
Before you snap to judgment of these girls, just put yourself in their shoes: You are one of three sisters. D’s the oldest at 14, you are 12, next is C who is only 8. You also have a baby brother who is 4. Your family just moved here, way out in the country. The nearest house is half mile down the road, so there are no neighbors next door. The creek behind the house is called Hogan Creek and so is the gravel road in front. A week ago you lived in Clifton, in the heart of Cincinnati. You took the city bus to school. You were lulled to sleep at night by the traffic on Vine Street and the ever present police sirens. It was never truly dark outside in the city. There were always lights from the neighbor’s houses and the street lamps on every corner. In fact from your patio you had a view of downtown. But you were used to it, been seeing it for as long as you remember. Sounds like the beginnings of a scary movie or one of those Goosebumps books you used to read, doesn’t it?
It is so dark at night that your bedroom windows in your new home look like yawning black rectangles. The house is made of field stone, probably dug from the creek bed right behind the house, your parents say. Built in the 1870s. You and your big sister agree that you surely just moved into a haunted house. It’s early September and still warm, so the windows are open and you can hear the crickets and owls and other noises that you do not recognize floating into your room at night. The scariest is the crying baby sound coming from the creek. Surely it is the cries of the lost children whose spirits are hanging out down there, children who drowned in the water when the school bus crash landed in the creek. That’s the first thing you noticed the day you arrived, the massive hulk of rusting metal that used to be a school bus, lying on its side in the creek. Did it crash here? And why was it just left to rust in the creek bed for eternity? You are sure that kids died in the crash, some even drowning in the muddy water of Hogan Creek.
The second thing you learned was that you and your siblings were not to go exploring in the overgrown field across the road. But of course you do and you find the remains of an old burned out farm house and a hole in the ground, which used to be a well, covered with rotting wood, hiding in the tall weeds. They said it was a very dangerous place for kids to play. They are right. You’d hate to lose your little brother in the well and have to explain how that happened. “The last time I saw him he was walking over there, then poof, he was gone.”
As the weeks wear on and you and your siblings venture further out, walking down the road where you see an abandoned A-frame, which of course you check out. This house is surely cursed. The landlady said her husband stepped on a nail while working on it and died a few days later of blood poison. Further along you see an old grave yard, fenced in, separating it from the pasture used by the cows, who are part of the dairy operation at the end of the road. Grave yards are a bad omen.
Going the other direction on Hogan Creek Road, you have to pass the abandoned saw mill before coming to the gravel turn-around where you wait each morning for the school bus. This daily walk is fraught with anxiety, since you now know that the sawmill is also haunted, thanks to your dad. He said the mill is known to start at odd hours of the night for no particular reason. He’s pretty sure it’s the ghost of the guy who died there many years ago when he fell into the rotating blade and got sawed in half. Dad is always trying to scare you kids. You know this. It’s a family tradition. He said his Papaw, down in Kentucky, was prone to telling scary stories to his many grandkids. One time as Dad was walking with his Papaw through an old graveyard, Papaw slipped away and hid behind a headstone and began making WOOOO WOOOOO sounds, trying to imitate a disembodied spirit. It worked. Dad said he ran screaming down the hill as fast as he could.
As September turns to October you and your sisters have to walk in the dark past the haunted sawmill to get to the bus stop. No one to drive you down the road, since your mother has to head out for work at 6:30 to get to Cincinnati in time and your dad works out of town. In fact he had to leave for Pennsylvania just after you moved, leaving his family here all alone. Your mom says she isn’t scared, that she likes it here. She’s crazy.
Your first week riding the school bus you meet the children who live across the creek on a farm at the beginning of the road. They walk over a swinging footbridge each morning to board the bus. You learn from the others on board that this family lost two children, twins, to Hogan Creek. The water was high and fast when one child went in to try and save their dog. The other went in to save his brother. All were lost. Two ghost children looking for their ghost dog would surely cry like babies in the night. But this story is not the bomb shell about to be dropped.
When one of the kids on the bus tells you that the house you moved into was the scene of a ghastly double homicide, you know you are doomed. You come home and cry to your mother. “We can’t stay here. They said two teenage boys lived here and they went nuts and chopped up their parents.” And you know it’s bad when you see this tale cracked even her cool veneer. A few days later your mother learns the truth from the nearest neighbor, stopping to talk to Chilmer on her way home. He is only too happy to tell her about the horror on Hogan Creek that happened some ten years prior. “First of all”, she said, “Chilmer says it was not our house.” Chilmer told her that the house of horror is the big stone house on the right, the one you pass when you first turn on our road. “That’s where the murder happened,”she assured you. Chilmer spared no details. He told her that the two teenage boys hacked their father up and buried him in the garden after a dispute over a goat getting lose. Chilmer was not sure if there was a mother involved. He went on to say the body parts were discovered by the guy who delivers propane gas to the tank outside. Chilmer, wanting to gossip like an old washer woman, told my mom that the family who now lives in the house, bought it very cheap after it was abandoned for several years. He said the local teens had been using the house as a place to drink and scare themselves silly. The part that really creeps you out, though, is that the new family also has two teenage sons. “What were they thinking? Didn’t they see Amityville Horror?” your sister D says when she hears of their folly. She read the book too, and knows how bad this can go.
I am not making any of this up. The girls are my daughters. Our family, myself, husband and four children, lived in the old stone house on Hogan Creek for five years in the 1980s. If you talk to any of my children today they still swear that place was haunted. They each claim to have had brushes with the supernatural there. The haunted saw mill, which ran by itself, the burned up farm house where children could be sucked into a well, and the cursed A-frame. Our youngest daughter says that she heard a knocking in the wall every night at the same time. Our son, who was quite young when we lived on Hogan Creek, said he recalls hearing the laughter of children along the creek when he was out there playing by himself. Of course he also told us he saw He-Man riding a big spotted horse.
As for me, I always loved the darkness of the deep holler of Hogan Creek. I used to walk down the road at night and lay on the gravel to look up at the ka-zillion stars visible in the dark sky, painted with the wispy dust of the Milky Way. I also loved to hike up the hill with the dogs following the gully where the water ran down to the creek when it rained. Joe was home most of that first winter and we did get an outside security light installed so it was less black at night and later a new dryer. And the teenage boys who lived down the road, never got possessed and murdered anyone. And I now know the “crying baby” sounds in the night were most likely a fox kit crying or a coyote howling.
But I do not doubt what our children experienced. I believe there is a universe that is invisible to us. And I know that energy does not die, but can linger in a place crossing time and space, manifesting to some as apparitions, sounds or feelings. I know that “there are more things in heaven and earth, than are dreamt of in my philosophy,” to quote Shakespeare. So yes, if you ask me the little stone house on Hogan Creek and the abandoned saw mill and the empty A-frame and the burned out farm house with the covered well and probably all of Hogan Creek was haunted and most likely still is.