The Haunted House of Huckleberry Hill
The dog days of summer
It was during the dog days of the summer of 1972 that I went to visit with my friend Donnie. I was sixteen years old back then, and trying to squeeze every drop out of summer vacation. At the time, we were rehashing our old adventures over a slice of watermelon, when Donnie suggested that we take the cross roads over to the local Dairy Queen. He was in the mood for a nice cold milkshake, if we could scrape up enough money. I reached into my wallet, as if to see how much I had, knowing that it was empty, then stuck my hand into my front pocket. I had about seventy-five cents, enough to buy one shake, with a little change left over. Donnie managed to get the rest, and we set off.
The cross road was a dirt road that cut from one main highway to another. It hadn’t been used in years, and now was unpassable for most vehicles. Only a few loggers used it from time to time. As we made our way along that dusty red clay road, Donnie pointed out an overgrown side road. “You know about that haunted house up at the top of the hill?” he asked.
“Oh come on Donnie,” I chided, “you don’t really believe in ghosts do you.”
“Oh, not me,” Donnie laughed, “but there are some people around here that do.” Then it struck him, “Hey, we should camp out there tonight. We would show all of these hicks around here how brave we are.”
“I don’t know Donnie,” I said showing my distaste for the idea. “That place is going to be dusty, and probably snake infested.”
“Come on, you’re not afraid are you?” Donnie egged, knowing that l couldn’t reject a dare, so I accepted, and that’s how it all started.
Now mind you, this isn’t your typical ghost story. To be honest, it isn’t a ghost story at all, but that’s how it started. That afternoon we packed a couple of back packs with the minimal gear we needed, and Donnie brought his five foot long oak walking stick for protection. If we were lucky we could make it to the abandoned house before sunset.
The cry in the night
Well, as it turned out, we had grossly miscalculated the amount of sunlight that we had left that afternoon, and after an hour's journey down the road, it was already getting dark. Still, we were halfway there, so we fired up the lantern and carried on. Now Donnie had spent the first part of that journey bragging about how he was going to rub his bravery into everyone's face, but after sunset he became far less vocal. It was just before reaching the side road that we heard this eerie cry, and Donnie turned to me, "What was that?" he asked nervously.
"It kind of sounds like a panther," I replied.
"There aren't any panthers around here," Donnie scoffed, "maybe some bobcats, but that's about it." I explained to him then, that I had relatives that had a garden nearby, and they claimed to have seen a panther on the perimeter of that garden more than once. They were supposed to have taken a picture of the big cat. In all my time spent in the woods, I never saw one, but that doesn't mean anything. A rare species that is reclusive by nature could easily go unnoticed.
Then we heard the cry again, only this time it was louder, and closer. "That sounds like a woman crying," Donnie observed.
"That's exactly what a panther cry sounds like," I replied soberly, a bit concerned myself now. It was then that we came to the side road leading up to the haunted house. "Donnie, you’re missing our turn," I said, but he kept walking. "Donnie, did you hear me. We just passed the road. Aren't we going to stay in the haunted House?"
"Let's don't, and say we did," he replied without ever stopping. "There's a big sand pit at the bottom of this hill. We'll camp out there, where we can make a fire, and have a good view of our surroundings. Besides, everyone knows we went into the woods, they won't know where we spent the night."
"But you gave John your scouts honor that we would stay in the house," I reminded him.
"I wasn't in the scouts," Donnie retorted, "besides, you should never let the truth or promises get in the way of a good story."
Now I'm not sure if Donnie coined that phrase or not, but I like it, so if you read my stuff, you may see it again.
By this time, Donnie was more than just scared, he was terrified. He now held that oak staff over his right shoulder in a tight grasp, ready to swing. He was walking to my left hand side, and kept close enough that his elbow rubbed against mine, hogging the lantern light up to his side of the trail. We were headed downhill now, and there was a steep ravine on my side of the trail.
In my years, I have noticed how things sometime happen in a way, that you couldn't plan them to if you wanted. Well now, one of those times was about to happen. The backpack that Donnie had loaned to me was a bit tattered, and the strap on my right side was only hanging by a few threads. Suddenly those threads broke, and the backpack flopped away from me, swinging around, and hitting Donnie smack in the middle of his back. The strap itself wrapped around Donnie's neck, and he cried out, “oh my god Randall, it got me! The panther's got me!" He swung around with the staff then, slamming it into me. I lost my balance, and fell over, tumbling down the side of the hill into a briar covered ravine, while Donnie continued to swing blindly at his imaginary beast. When Donnie finally collapsed to the ground from exhaustion, I felt safe enough to crawl out of the ravine. I had just been clubbed, torn up by some wicked briars, and yet I somehow found myself beginning laugh, and I couldn't stop.
"Shut up!" Donnie snapped. "It's not funny. Something got hold of me." I explained to him then what had happened, and he made me promise to never tell anyone, and for the longest time I didn't. However, I'm now reminded of an old saying I once heard, never let the truth, or promises get in the way of a good story.