Estimated reading time — 12 minutes
It was 2:05 AM when I did it.
Everything around was completely quiet, not a single person in sight. I grabbed the folding ladder out from my garage, and neatly placed it right under the light post in front of my house. I quickly ran back inside and came back out with a rope that I had tied earlier that night. I looked up at the light, and started climbing to the top. Once I was there, I quickly and carefully tied the end of the rope to the light, and made sure it was nice and secure before I wrapped the noose around my throat. I stood on top of the ladder, and looked down to see her still staring at me, waiting eagerly for me to kick the ladder from under my feet. I looked straight ahead with tears in my eyes and convinced myself everything was going to be over soon… the nightmare would soon be over.
This is how it began.
When I was 17, I became fascinated with urban exploring after seeing videos about it, and thinking to myself how cool it would be to do all that. I actually convinced my best friend to come with me on my first expedition, to an old school that had been abandoned for years because of funding issues. Kids around the school would tell these scary stories about the place and how it was haunted, but I just dismissed them as bullshit. At first, my friend didn’t want to go, but he eventually caved in and agreed.
For some added excitement, we went at night, hoping to enhance the whole experience. We were both so terrified of actually doing it, but eventually the adventure started and there was no turning back. It was actually a lot of fun. We found old papers and textbooks, and even a box full of needles left over from the dope fiends that slept there from time to time. When we finally left, our hearts were pumping, and smiles filled our faces. That adrenaline rush from being in an old, supposedly “haunted” building, with remnants of the past still there, and the eerie beautifulness of the buildings state of decay… we knew we needed more.
After that night, my friend actually became obsessed with exploring old abandoned buildings, and he especially liked the ones that were supposedly haunted. Both he and I were very big skeptics when it came to the paranormal, but the thrill was still there. Exploring became our hobby – it was much more fulfilling than just staying at home and watching movies or something – so we made it “our thing.” Every Friday night, we would go to a new place that was “haunted” and spend about two hours looking at everything we could find. It wasn’t always easy, as abandoned buildings were not that common in our area, so sometimes we would have to go back to the same places we’d already visited before. Still, we didn’t care: It was some of the best fun I’ve ever had… until all that of fun suddenly ended when my friend told me about “Crimson Mansion.”
It was Thursday morning, and my friend had come to pick me up at my house so that we could go to school together. It was routine moment, except this time – before I could even sit down – he smiled at me with excitement.
“I found the perfect place for us to go tomorrow!” he said, his eyes lighting up as he told me.
“Oh yeah? Where at?” I asked.
“I was talking to this guy in a chat room yesterday. You know, just asking people about any abandoned places that they knew about so we could go visit them. Anyway, I started talking to this dude that tells me that there’s an old mansion in the middle of the woods that used to be owned by this very wealthy Japanese family and, get this, apparently a lot of people died around there.”
“Oh shit, that’s fucking brutal. Where’s it at?” I wasn’t exactly sharing my friend’s excitement – it sounded sketchy – but I listened anyway.
“I don’t know the name of the actual place, but the guy called it ‘Crimson Mansion.’ It’s, like, an hour from here, and he said that if I wanted to see something really cool and creepy that I should go there. Oh, and he tried to scare me by saying, ‘Legend has it that a particularly evil spirit lives in that mansion, so beware,’ so you know what we have to do now. GO AT NIGHT!”
To be quite honest, as much as I didn’t believe in the paranormal, what the guy told my friend certainly creeped me out a lot. I didn’t want to look like a little bitch, so I pretended not to care, telling him that we were going to have the “time of our lives.” We went to school, and our day played out as usual with nothing exciting… but the next day that was ahead of us. That morning, I told my mom that I was going to sleep over at my friend’s house and that I’d be back by the following day. I got picked up, went to all my classes, and ended the day on a positive note.
Then it was time to get going.
With my friend in his car, already looking up the way to get there on his phone, we unknowingly set off to the worst nightmare imaginable.
We had been driving for about forty-five minutes, when we spotted the beginnings of the forest, like it had sprung straight out of the ground. The trees were incredibly tall and very, very dark, as if a giant painted them all black.
“Well, this looks inviting,” my friend said, looking up at the towering trees. We both watched as they rocked back and forth slightly.
“I didn’t expect for it to be this windy tonight,” I said, grateful that I always brought a warm jacket with me.
“The entrance should be somewhere a little farther on the right. Let me know if you see anything.”
As the sky grew dark, we started paying close attention to the road, hoping to find an entrance of some sort. Finally, after about twenty minutes, we discovered a road that led into the woods. There was just one small problem: That point of ingress was closed off by a metal fence with a big sign on it that read “NO TRESPASS.” It was kind of weird; I thought it would say “No Trespassing,” but regardless, we parked in front of the gate, got our stuff, and climbed over the big metal fence.
There was no path to guide us; just overgrown bushes and trees all around. We turned on our flashlights and proceeded into the forest. The wind was blowing really hard by that point, and it was getting pretty cold, but we kept going.
“So, did this guy tell you exactly how to get there?” I asked. I really did not want to get lost in the woods.
“He said it was literally just a straight shot as soon as you hop over the fence… so let’s just keep going straight.”
It wasn’t long until we found a cleared path that was directly in front of us. We looked at each other, laughed with excitement, and marched on. Suddenly, a couple of feet away we saw a house, all white with the windows all broken, front door missing, and white paint chipping away from every corner of the place.
“This isn’t a fucking mansion!” my friend exclaimed. “It’s just a big house! And it’s not even red!”
He was right. Now, of course the place was pretty big, especially for being in the middle of nowhere, but not a mansion. Even though we were disappointed with not seeing a real mansion yet, we felt giddy with excitement.
We slowly approached the house and made our way inside, where we saw something pretty strange: The whole bottom floor was devastated, with every single doorway blocked by debris, and no way around any of it… but the staircase in the middle of it all was untouched. The steps led up to a single red door, which was also surprisingly untouched. The paint on the stairs and door looked old, but not as worn-down as the one on the outside (or the inside) of the house. We looked around to see if there was any way to visit the bottom of the house, but there was just the staircase and the door to go through. With no other choice, we climbed up and opened the door.
Inside was a large table pushed up against the end of the room, with candles on each side and what appeared to be a big book in the middle. The book had a red leather cover, with cobwebs all over. My friend slowly reached out and opened it.
The first few pages were blank… but then there was a photograph of a girl, not more than fifteen years old. The picture looked pretty old, from maybe around the thirties or something. The girl was sitting down on what looked like a tree stump, looking straight at the camera, smiling, while her head rested on her hand. She had long black hair, and a flowery dress on. She looked happy. Even the background was nice, with beautiful trees on a sunny day.
“Guess it’s an old family album that they left,” I said to my friend. He didn’t say anything and kept flipping through the pages. Each turn revealed still another image, always of the same girl. Sometimes she was at the park, or in a house, or something, but it was just her. We were almost at the end of the book when we stumbled on a completely blacked-out page.
“Why the fuck is the page black?” my friend asked.
I didn’t have an answer for him, and I think we were both hesitant about turning the page again. I wish we never did. As he turned the page, we saw the girl again, except this time, she wasn’t smiling: She was standing in front of the house we were in, arms to her side, looking straight into the camera. Something about this picture was off, although I couldn’t explain exactly how. My friend turned the next page. Same girl, same spot, but this time she was smiling… with a noose around her neck.
We both stared at the picture for a while, saying nothing. He turned the page. What we saw made us jump back, because the girl was now hanging… but she still had that smile on her face, looking straight into the camera, her neck slightly elongated, with her head tilted at an impossible, almost-ninety-degree angle. It was horrifying. The more I looked, the more scared I became. The feeling, staring at that picture, was just absolute dread.
“Come on, bro, let’s get the fuck outta here.” I said.
“Yeah… yeah… let’s leave,” he said, still looking at the picture. I knew he was scared, too. He closed the book and we practically ran out of the room. We got to the bottom stepped outside and froze. We were paralyzed. I felt myself start to panic and got slightly lightheaded.
Right in the middle of the path, which connected the woods to the house, was the girl hanging from the rope. Her back was facing us, but we knew it had to be her: She wore the same flowery dress, with her neck still at a frightening angle. There was also not a sound from outside. No wind, no animals, no rustling leaves, just absolute silence. All we could hear was our breaths, and the slow creaking of the rope as the girl’s body swayed back and forth in the air. I looked up, but the rope wasn’t attached to a tree; it just went up into the sky with nothing that could possibly be holding it. We couldn’t move… couldn’t comprehend what was happening.
Without warning, the girl’s body suddenly fell from the sky, smashing her legs in the ground below, all of the bones breaking. My friend and I both fell back as if pushed by something, our flashlights falling to the floor and illuminating the body on the ground.
We stared at her mangled corpse on the floor for what felt like forever. Then, faintly enough to have nearly been missed, we heard a laugh coming from her. It was a soft, almost delicate laugh, one your girlfriend might make when you say she’s beautiful. Suddenly, we heard her bones breaking again.. but back into place. She was picking herself up, with her shattered legs rearranging themselves. At last, the girl was standing, with her neck still at the grotesque angle, and looking away from us. She kept laughing. I looked at my friend, who looked as panicked as I felt.
I quickly looked back at the girl, as her arms starting lifting up in front of her. With her arms fully stretched in front of her, she began turning… but only her top half was moving. Her legs stayed facing forward, as she twisted around and revealed her face. The same twisted smile in the picture was exactly what we saw. Her laugh grew distorted, and at that moment, our flashlights went out. We both screamed.
Only a second later, the life came back to our flashlights. The girl was gone. My friend looked at me, his eyes wide.
We both snatched our flashlights and ran back the same way we had come. Sweat pouring down my forehead, and my heart beating out of my chest, I ran faster than I ever had before. We kept sprinting into the night… but something wasn’t right. The path we had taken hadn’t been this long. As the thought occurred to me, that mocking laughter started up again, seeming to come from directly behind us. Tears welled up in my eyes, blurring my vision and making me feel like my footfalls were coming more and more slowly. Exhaustion started to set in, and I felt my limbs growing heavy.
Right before I gave up, the path ended. I could see the fence. I ran through the thick bushes and branches and double-timed my way up the fence. Once on the other side, and next to my friend’s car, I stopped and looked back.
Just the fence, the trees, and the darkness… and no sign of my friend.
I listened to hear if maybe he was running up, but I heard nothing. I called out to him, but got no answer. Several minutes passed as I kept screaming out for him. I knew that I couldn’t go home alone; I had to find him.
Summing up all of my courage and trying to push my fear aside, I cleared the fence and starting running back to the house. I found it almost immediately. In full panic mode, I stood in front of the door and called for my friend. A voice answered me from inside the house. Without thinking, I ran inside and went up the stairs, coming again to that door. I could hear someone moving, so I swung the door open, revealing the table, and the book, and the lit candles… but nothing (and nobody) else.
As I stepped into the room, the door slammed behind me. I whirled back and tried to open it, prying at it with my fingers, but nothing helped. Part of my mind insisted that the wind had been responsible, but my fear was coming back… and it only escalated when the book on the table flung itself open. Even from my place near the door, I could see a picture of my friend hanging in front of his house, with his head almost completely to its side.
I could barely breathe, but I saw that there was a second picture behind the page. I don’t know what compelled me to step forward and turn it, but I did. The last page of the book was a picture of me, hanging with my neck and face just like my friend’s… hanging in front of my house.
The candles went out, and I heard her… heard her laugh right behind my ear. Before I could scream, her hands grabbed my face and covered my mouth and eyes, and I felt like I was freefalling into nothingness.
I thought it would never end, but I suddenly opened my eyes and found myself at home, in bed. No, I thought, it couldn’t have been a dream, it wasn’t a dream. I turned on my bedside lamp and started crying when I looked around the room. The picture of the girl was plastered on all the walls, covering everything. For some reason, though, my fear completely subsided; all I felt was sadness. As if compelled by her, I went downstairs to my garage, grabbed some rope, and tied a noose. I’d never tied a noose before, yet I did it without hesitation, perfectly. I couldn’t stop myself, and for some reason it didn’t bother me. I was actually happy… the pain wouldn’t last for much longer. I opened my garage door and brought my father’s ladder out, placing it under the lightpost right in front of my home. I looked down and saw her – the girl – gazing upward, her head still tilted on her deformed neck.
Tears in my eyes, I jumped.
I woke up in the hospital, tubes sticking out of my nose and mouth, hooked up to the beeping machines, whatever they’re called. I looked around but no one was there. I went back to sleep. Waking up again all the tubes and machines were gone, just my parents who hugged me as soon as they saw my eyes open. My father was crying, and my mom kept saying “Why would he do this?”
Apparently I woke my dad up when I opened the garage and dragged the ladder out, so when he went to see what I was doing, he saw me jump and saved me. He asked me if I had made a suicide pact with Sam, my friend. I asked why, and he said that his parents found him hanging in front of his house, just like I would have done if my father hadn’t stopped me. I tried to explain what had happened that night, but of course, nobody believed me. My parents kept saying I was making things up, or that it was just the shock of almost dying. At one point, police came in and started asking a bunch of questions about what I knew and what happened when we went out that night. I still couldn’t think straight, but I managed to tell them everything. They both looked at each other and said very calmly,
“Son, someone saw your friend’s car near a patch of forest in the middle of nowhere and called it in. Some officers went to check it out and saw that the keys were locked inside. He also found this. Is this yours or is it his?” One of the officers handed me a picture.
It was her. The first picture we saw of her in that book. A peaceful scene indeed. I started bawling. My parents told me that I was going to stay in the hospital for a while, because they wanted me under “suicide watch,” and I couldn’t have cared less.
It’s been a little over 3 years now, and my life has somewhat returned to normal. While under suicide watch, the cops told me that they investigated the house I had talked about, but found absolutely nothing. It somehow didn’t surprise me, and everything was left at that. When I got out of the hospital, I burned the picture and never went exploring anymore. I haven’t ever seen her again, but I still catch glimpses of her sick, twisted face in my dreams sometimes… or more appropriately, my nightmares. I don’t know what happened. I don’t know if I’m crazy or if something was wrong with me that night, but all I know is that whoever that girl is, she has my friend… and I’m so, so sorry.