Excerpted from Spooky Oregon
retold by S.E. Schlosser
She climbed the sand dune swiftly, giggling nervously at her daring, as the soft mist of an early evening fog swirled around her. Around her, her friends were scrambling their way through the sand and long grass, heading steadily upward toward the haunted lighthouse on the summit.
When one of Muriel’s friends suggested visiting the abandoned lighthouse on top of the ridge between the sea and the harbor, Muriel had felt a pang of warning in her ribs. Folks said that mysterious lights appeared in the darkened windows of the menacing structure, and some swore that moans and shrieks could be heard coming from the top floors of a building in the foggy weather just prior to a storm.
Muriel half-believed the stories, and the idea of visiting the lighthouse made her nervous. Still, her friends wanted to go, and they had persuaded the caretaker to loan them the key for their excursion. So she went with them, in spite of her misgivings. Now they were standing next to the rickety old fence that surrounded the dark sentinel atop the hill. Before them the dilapidated, box-like structure with its creaky, crooked little porch and ominous tall door loomed menacingly in the growing fog. The cracked glass windows of the house looked like black eyes, peering menacingly down upon the eager faces of the young people who dared enter its presence.
Nervously, the group entered the dusty interior of the old lighthouse, staring around the front hallway and up the steep staircase. One or two of the girls giggled and started exploring the old kitchen and the dusty sitting rooms, while the boys peeked into the rickety cellar.
Then Muriel grabbed her boyfriend Harold by the hand and pulled him upstairs. After exploring several rooms, they wandered up to the third floor landing and looked into a tiny room beside the metal staircase that led up to the lantern in the tower. A moment later, their friends joined them and everyone crowded into the small room. One of the boys bumped into the wainscoting on the wall by accident, and a piece of it broke off on impact. “This place is falling apart!” he exclaimed in disgust.
Then they saw it. An iron panel gleamed through the gap in the wall. They tapped the iron panel and heard a hollow knocking sound ring through the cupboard. The sound filled Muriel with a sense of foreboding.
“Let’s see if we can move it,” Harold said, and together the two boys removed the iron square, revealing a small crawl-space with a gaping black hole in the bottom of it. Everyone gasped in amazement, and took turns looking down into the dark space. One intrepid lad crawled inside and dropped pebbles down into the hole, but none of them heard them reach the bottom of the pit.
All the hair on Muriel’s arms stood on end as she thought of smugglers crawling up the dark hole and into the uncanny old house. Or pirates stashing their ill-gotten gains in the empty rooms, waiting to load them aboard their ship. Anything or anyone might come through such a hole. Her face flushed with fear and her arms grew cold.
Muriel pulled out her handkerchief with shaking fingers and wiped her suddenly sweaty forehead. “Let’s get out of here,” she said, backing away from the crawl space and starting toward the stairs. No one jeered at her this time. They were all frightened by the black hole inside the dark crawl space.
"Let’s go home,” said one of the other girls. The others were quick to agree. It didn’t take them long to swarm down two flights of creaky worn stairs and out into the foggy dusk. As Muriel stood beside Harold, watching him lock the door to the lighthouse, she reached again for her handkerchief to wipe away the telltale sweat of relief on her face and realized it was gone.
“Harold, I’ve left my handkerchief inside,” she exclaimed. “I’ll go get it and come out the kitchen door.”
"Let me come with you," said Harold, but she shook him off. She was a big girl and didn’t need help from a boy! Reluctantly, he let her back into the house. “You don’t have to wait,” she called over her shoulder. “Lock the door and go on. I’ll meet you down the hill.”
She turned and marched up the staircase. Behind her, she heard the door snick shut, and the sound of the key turning. And that’s when she realized she was all alone in the drafty, dark uncanny house. All alone. Dread seized her and turned her legs to jelly. She wanted to run. But what a fool she would look if she returned to the others without her handkerchief. Panting with terror, Muriel forced herself across the little landing and started up the second staircase toward the linen cupboard. She paused once, pulses pounding madly. Was that a thump she heard upstairs?
Don’t be silly, she told herself, forcing her shaking legs up another step. It’s just the loose shutter blowing in the wind. And then all the hair on the back of her neck stood on end as she realized she could hear something breathing behind her…
The boys and girls all came running back to the lighthouse when they heard several terrible screams, the last one a stifled cry for help. They ran through the house, frantically yelling for Muriel. But the house was empty of all life. At the top of the small, second story staircase which led to the linen cupboard and the iron ladder leading to the tower, they found a large pool of hot blood, still steaming in the cool air of the house. Beside it was a small white handkerchief.
Muriel was never seen again.
You can read more ghost stories in Spooky Oregon.