House of Madness
by Sara Harris
Genre: Paranormal Thriller
Tim and Adelaide Smithfield are haunted by memories of loss too raw to forget, and too painful to remember. Their 11-year-old daughter, Michaela, has her own set of sensory processing challenges, not to mention an overwhelming sense of guilt that she might be at the root of her parents’ problems.
The sprawling ranch house on the outskirts of the quaint West Texas town of Big Spring promises a fresh start for a young family on the verge of collapse.
But the house is haunted by memories of its own… and a guilt that West Texas’ famed thunderstorms can’t wash away.
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Addie shook her head. “Sorry, Mack. I didn’t sleep well last night. What?”
“Are all Ritchie’s bad people?”
“I suppose it would depend on the person.”
Addie’s stomach rumbled. A couple of donuts were left in the box. Neither had equally dispersed sprinkles, so it’s not like Michaela would be eating one. Addie took a deep breath and chose the most smashed of the two before she continued.
Time to put the past to rest. Time to be normal.
Addie chewed the pastry and swallowed the bite. It tasted like sawdust. “Do you think Ritchie is the name of a bad guy?”
Michaela nodded. “Ritchie is mean. I don’t like anyone named Ritchie.”
Adelaide said a mental prayer for any of Michaela’s future classmates who had the bad luck to be named Ritchie.
Michaela folded her paper towel in half, then in half again. “Ritchies slam doors. And they don’t like dogs.”
Addie glanced at Tim. He must think he’s the only one among us who has a mind that operates halfway decent.
“Well baby, don’t judge all Ritchie’s just from one.”
Michaela shrugged and stacked the pepper shaker on top of the salt. “I don’t know. You’ve always said anyone that doesn’t like dogs can’t be trusted any further than you could throw them. And I don’t think I could throw Ritchie very far.”
Addie tried to conceal a laugh, but it escaped anyway as a snort. Sometimes, Michaela’s thought process was so entirely off the wall that it came full circle and made a bit of sense.
Tim, however, wasn’t laughing at all. “Who is Ritchie, Mack? Someone in one of your classes at school last year or something?”
Mack stared at her dad. A deadpan stare that had proven to give parents of non-autistic children the creeps. “Ritchie gets mad. He likes to slam things.”
An icy breeze brought goosebumps to Addie’s arms.
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Several of these spooky elements were real - including the little girl, Michaela, talking to the French speaking ghost in the closet mirror. Only this happened when we lived in Italy, which was really bizarre. I would think any ghosts living in the mirror in Italy would speak Italian?
People often ask me if I believe in ghosts. I have to say no - with all the spooky occurrences that have happened to me during the course of my life, if I actually believed in ghosts, I would never sleep with the lights off again! Hehe!
My most memorable ghostly occurrence was in Galveston, Texas. We were staying at one of the most haunted places on the island, the Tremont Hotel - room 333. My family and I checked in after hours, put the do not disturb sign out like we always do, unpacked, had a pillow fight, opened the TV cabinet and pulled out the television and positioned it to where it faced the beds, then went out on the town. We arrived back to the room about midnight to a spotless room. We asked the front desk if they always tidied rooms after guests checked in. They said housekeeping left at 5, and nobody would have come in the room without out consent with the do not disturb sign on the door. I wish could have brought that awesome ghost home with me!
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