The House by the Cemetery by John Everson
The Vanishing Farmhouse
It had been months since Mike's life had fallen apart. His wife had left him for another man. Close to destitute with little work as a contractor recently, an offer from friend's at a local bar in the South Suburbs of Chicago, an offer Mike can not refuse is set forth in John Everson's The House By The Cemetery.
For generations, Bachelor's Grove was a place of legend to those growing up around Chicagoland. The former settlement of immigrants has fallen just around the turn of the early nineteen hundreds, all that remained of the area now a part of the Rubio Woods forest preserve is the cemetery that had been boarded up for years and an old farmhouse that was rumored to disappear from view as you grew closer to it; said to be the spot where a caretaker had killed his family and taken his own life.
Convinced that the Bremen house could be used as a tourist attraction for the upcoming Halloween season, Mike was tasked to do the repairs on the building, making it suitable for the site of a haunted house.
Think of the money it would make having a haunted house in an actual haunted house! It was small miracle that the forest preserve was on board with this operation.
From the beginning, Mike worked alone on the house, never feeling comfortable in the summer sun as he reinforced the floors and added a deck to the back on the house.
Something he felt was watching him through the upstairs windows and it sent a shiver down his spine.
He would have walked away but the money for the project was too good as he was living paycheck to paycheck.
Then something else beckoned him to stay.
Used as dumping ground for bodies by the mob as well as the site for satanism and teenage vandals, the woods of Bachelor's Grove are so well watched by police that the sign to the part of the woods where it lies had to be relocated further down Harlem Ave to a part of the woods where just a very creepy field stands and nothing more. To access the real Bachelor's Grove, one must park at Rubio Woods parking lot and take the dirt path that was once part of Midlothian Turnpike.
Conversation And A Beer
On the back deck of the house, two young girls sat talking to Mike day after day about his work on the house. There was no way that the one girl could be a day over eighteen but something about her made Mike ache in a way he hadn't felt in so long.
As they say drinking beers with him, he began to find out a little more about them. Katie, the one that he was attracted to said she lived nearby but was struggling to keep a hold of a house that had been her mothers and really needed some money.
As she gained Mike's trust with with her accomplice, Emery, a silent hulk of a girl; Mike began to feel sorry for his new friends. He was sympathetic as this job was the only thing keeping him afloat at the moment.
Katie suddenly took a romantic interest in Mike and he couldn't help himself as they romanced in one of the upstairs room with the strange wallflower of Emery sulking in the corner until she was eventually invited into the fray.
It was then that Katie explained she had something she needed Mike to do for her with no questions asked.
She explained her mother had been buried outside and they needed to dig her up as there was something very valuable inside her grave that might save her house. Uneasy about this, Mike does as he was told.
Another surprise befallen on him, Katie is actually dead, she explained as she showed him her scars from her autopsy that crisscrossed her chest.
Convinced to unearth the body of Katie's mother from the cemetery, Mike began to feel uneasy. The woman they had dug up must be older than any relative that could have been Katie's since the cemetery had been out of service for so long. Still he felt himself falling for the young woman, even if she was dead.
The haunted house was almost physically done but it still needed employees to work the attractions and a casting call for makeup artists and other performers went out with Mike's friends from the bar taking auditions.
Finding a perfect cast that wanted nothing more than to be part of the legendary haunted house when it opened, they didn't complain about the tiny space they were allowed to use or the small amount of pay for their time.
For an entire month, the haunted house would be the place to be and fear seekers from all around Chicago would come to see their presentation.
It seemed odd at first.
People just went missing. One at a time.
It wasn't that anyone complained about the job.
One minute, someone was in their themed room and then they weren't.
It seemed the same with tourists as well. Cars lay abandoned on the parking area close to the house.
A paranormal investigator named Jillie had seen this all before and had warned the police of the last time that people had gone missing near Bachelor's Grove and a vengeful witch was to blame. Of course the police hadn't believed her.
Even when Jillie later broke in and called the police after finding the body of a young girl with her throat slit in the basement- only to see that the crime scene had been replaced with that of a mannequin.
Something was trying to resurrect itself in this house and Jillie knew the more energy it was given, the more harsh the outcome.
The Blood Of Thirty
It would take thirty to resurrect her body, Katie said.
Now the jig was up as she admitted to Mike that it was her body, not that of her mother that had lain in the dug up casket they had placed in the basement.
Emery was a witch of the same coven that had originally called out to Katie and she had come.
Only Katie could only be flesh for a temporarily amount of time and she had used that time to be with Mike. Now if he loved her, he had to use the haunted house to lure in victims so they could be bled over Katie's body making the flesh knit back on her bones for eternity.
Mike didn't know what to think.
Sure he would do anything to help Katie but he wasn't sure about harming people that had done nothing but bought a ticket to an attraction.
For love though, Mike began to use the trapdoor to the basement as a way to catch guests that strayed too far from their party and he and Emery began to bleed them in the basement. Some offered just enough blood and were left disoriented and let go to keep down the missing person's reports but many were not that lucky.
When Jillie returned the basement for the second time for further investigation, body parts lay a strewn like they were collapsed mannequins coated in thick red paint.
Fearing that she would face her own end in the basement, Jillie now discovered that the ritual of fifty years had been completed and that Emery had to give her blood once again as the last sacrifice.
Mike finally began to have second thoughts about the plan and a future with the ghost witch.
A Slave To The Cause
Finding that after the slaughter, Katie would also need blood to have continued maintenance to stay alive in her new form and Mike was now bound to her as the servant to deliver future victims. He tried to coax her off the land, first finding that the police would be looking for him in connection to all the death in the haunted house, then secondly she couldn't stray from the land.
Mike felt sick knowing that he could never go back to a normal life after all of this.
How had he not seen the truth.
The House By The Cemetery is a great novelization of something that locals like myself knew from legends as early on as grade school, growing up walking distance from the wooded trails which eventually crossed into Bachelor's Grove.
As part of my youth, friends and I wandered several times to the tiny cemetery, but never finding the farmhouse spoken about in other sources and the book.
I admire the great amount of research and development that went into this book. That being said, the editing is another matter. With many typos and spelling mistakes such as a terrible use of "manikin" for mannequin, it made me grit my teeth that John Everson is a Bram Stoker Award Winner. If the editor is to blame, how that could be an oversight is completely unforgivable.
While the tale deviates just enough from what is known of the the lore of Bachelor's Grove, bringing in the story of Katie plays well into the well known amount of witchcraft and Satanism in the woods that I practically called home growing up.
This is a great story overall, it was just the jarring spelling errors and typos that toned down the appeal overall.