Visit just one of the haunted houses in this excerpt from Northanger, by Emmy Z. Madrigal.
“I’m excited to see Woodston,” Kat said.
“It’s just the sort of place you’ll like. With a story you’ll love,” Henry said.
“Yes.” Henry put down his coffee cup and leaned in to tell her the story. “Mr. Woodston was the grandson of old Mr. Northanger. In 1895, Mr. Woodston built the Woodston house for his fiancée. They went to New York for the wedding but on their way back, Mr. Woodston died in a carriage crash.”
“Oh my God, that’s horrible.”
“His bride was hurt, but recovered only to find herself in the house he’d built for her in secret. The new Mrs. Woodston lived there for a few months, but being so isolated and without her groom, she moved back to the main house with the Northangers and then shortly after, back to her family in New York.”
“And on the same day of her husband’s death, not three years later, she succumbed to a fever and died without ever remarrying. Some blamed her death on a broken heart and there are rumors of the couple haunting Woodston.”
“Yes!” Henry grinned and went on, his voice grave indeed. “First the ghost of young Mr. Woodston, calling out for his bride Julieta. And second, Julieta calling out for her love. Yet, they can never find one another despite searching these many years later.”
Kat drew in an excited gasp. “Have you witnessed these ghosts?”
“No. It is just a story to frighten tourists.” He smiled, relaxing back into his chair. “But perhaps you are more sensitive and will witness them yourself.”
Kat smiled, knowing he was teasing her, but at the same time wondering if she would feel a ghost presence when they visited.
“Oh, here comes Ellen. She probably wants to say goodbye one last time.”
“Yes, you know, before you’re killed by the ghosts of Woodston.”
Kat scoffed. “You tease.”
Henry strapped in a small backpack to the luggage rack and then got on the snowmobile. He offered a hand to Kat and she got on behind him, wrapping her arms around him.
“Hold on!” The snowmobile took off with a burst and she gripped him tighter around the waist. His body was warm and solid underneath the puffy parka he wore. A bump in the road unsettled her and he placed a gloved hand on hers, steading her. Piercing cold air stung her cheeks where her scarf, hat, and goggles met.
Before them, a blanket of white snow stretched out as far as the eye could see. Trees covered in white carved out a path leading to more trees.
The endless bank of trees reminded Kat of the scene in Suspiria where a panicked girl is running through the woods as Suzy looks out the cab window that rainy night she arrives at school. Kat’s eyes searched the trees as they whizzed by. It was daytime, but the trees stretched up so high above them, they blocked out the sunlight, causing the formation of strange shadows in the woods. Her eyes—with the help of her imagination—caused her to see some weird things in the woods. A snow mound became a wolf. The shadow of a tree became a human form.
It must have been twenty minutes before Henry slowed the snowmobile before a dark house looming in the distance. It wasn’t like the visibly scary cartoon haunted houses of The Addams Family or The Munsters. It was more like a retold ghost story, welcoming Kat in like her grandmother’s afghan. It was a place that held stories. A place where you could feel at home and connect with the ghosts of the past at the same time.
“What do you think?” Henry asked, removing his goggles.
Kat pushed down her scarf. “It’s awesome.”
Gazing up at the gray shutters and storm blue trim, Kat imagined a ghost in the window. There wasn’t one really, but the one in her imagination welcomed her home. She’d never seen a picture of Julieta Woodston, but in her imagination, she wore a ghostly white dress and glowed in the frame of the window in the attic.
A flash of Mrs. Havisham from Great Expectations came to Kat. Was there a dining room inside covered in cobwebs?
“Coming?” Henry slung the backpack over one shoulder and held out his hand for her to grasp. She took it and he helped her off the mobile. An icy patch in front of the stairs caused her to pitch forward into his arms. Her breath caught as she looked into his eyes. She could see flecks of gold in his stormy ocean gray.
“You all right?” he asked his rumble out of his chest under her fingertips.
“Y-yes. Yeah, sorry.”
His face was so close, she yearned to kiss him.
He let go of her, all except one hand, which he held as he led her to the door with no other falling incidents. As he opened the door, the ancient house smell surrounded her. Cedar. Old books. A little dust.
“I’ll get a fire started right away. Come in, it will get warm soon.” He closed the front door behind her and clicked on the lights with the loud solid plunk of an old electric switch. The foyer and stairs came alive.
The stairway was wide and took up half the entryway, leading up to a wide-halled balustrade railed with once-white spindles. The floor was an intricate wooden pattern of Greek design.
There were rooms on both sides of her, but what caught her attention first was an open door upstairs that creaked with movement.
Henry followed her gaze upstairs. “Wind from down here always makes that bedroom door move,” he said in explanation. “Or perhaps it’s the Woodstons welcome welcoming us in.”
“Let’s go to the parlor first, so I can start a fire. I promised Ellen I’d keep you warm.”
Kat followed Henry into the room on the right, decorated in light blue and furnished in modest but antique furniture. She took a seat on a dark blue, tufted chair and peeled off her winter gear while Henry started a fire.
The room was pretty and she could tell it would be bright on a sunny day with the curtains open. Compared to the rest of the house, the room was clean and organized. The antiques seemed genuine and even the curtains and wallpaper looked if not new, laundered. The wallpaper was blue and white toile and looked so familiar…and then she remembered a passage in one of her favorite books by Marie Gates.
The wallpaper in blue and white toile housed several families and couples taking advantage of a sunny meadow for picnics and frolicking in the lake. They were so lifelike, I wanted to reach out, pluck them from their ministrations, and place them in my pocket, but that was madness, right? But madness ruled in the house on the hill.
“Mad House!” Kat exclaimed.
Henry grinned. “I wondered if you’d pick up on that.”
“Did you truly redo this room to fit Mad House?”
“No, but when I washed the walls and found it in pretty good condition, I knew I had to keep it.”
“Wise decision.” Kat stared at the little Victorian people in hats and parasols picnicking and awed at the detail of each tiny face.
“Alrighty…fire started, would you like the tour while it warms up the place?”
Tour the house with Henry and Kat by reading… Northanger.