In 2010, twelve writers and artists joined hostess Rain Graves and a team of ghost hunters for a long weekend at a haunted historical mansion in Northern California. The first Haunted Mansion Retreat was so inspiring—and so scary—that most of us jumped at the chance to do it again in September 2012. Some new blood was added to the mix and all of us looked forward to four days together in the haunted house.
I rode with Rain and Sèphera Giron up to the mansion on Thursday afternoon. Once we arrived, Rain put us to work. Sèph and I went up to the second floor to put name tags on beds so that everyone could find their assigned spaces. Sunlight flooded through the windows, highlighting the crisply made beds and cozy rooms. Mount Tamalpais loomed on the west, lush and green, enrobed in autumn.
Sèphera and I started with the familiar rooms at the top of the stairs: here was where S. G. Browne had been menaced by the Black Mass; here was Wes and Yvonne’s sunny corner suite; here was my friendly little blue room where a ghost had touched my hair.
We had just come out of the room that would be Chris Colvin’s. Sèph was telling me about the Black Mass that had harassed her and Rain in the corner room in 2010. We stood in the little hallway, sorting out our list and the name cards, when something large moved through the empty room we’d just left.
I looked up, startled, and met Sèphera’s eyes. “Did you hear that?” I gasped.
“Something is up here with us,” Sèph said and smiled.
* * * * *
Friday night, most of us were writing in the first-floor parlor while the rest joined the GhostGirls’ investigation on the third floor.
Something heavy scraped across the floor above us: on the second floor, in the area where Yvonne, Wes, and I had our rooms. It sounded like a heavy piece of furniture—for some reason, I thought of a trunk—being dragged across the floor. None of us would do such a thing, conscious as we were of being in someone else’s house. We exchanged glances, but couldn’t explain what we’d heard.
Scott stomped down from the third floor. “What was that?” he demanded.
“We thought it was you,” someone said.
“We were all on the third floor,” he said. “Who’s on the second floor?”
“No one. We’re all right here.”
* * * * *
After midnight, when I finally got brave enough to go upstairs to change for bed, I tried shoving the furniture around my room to see if I could replicate the noise we’d heard earlier.
The bed was on casters. It glided silently across the bare, unmarked floorboards. Nothing in my room could have made the heavy scraping we all heard.
* * * * *
The house seemed quiet on Saturday. Even the night passed peacefully. I felt pretty relaxed about the whole experience, until Yvonne teased me about sleeping with my light on.
I’d woken up in a puddle of moonlight, so I knew I’d shut the light off before I went to sleep. My room had been locked from the inside. No one had been in there touching the lights, but me.
Or so I thought.
* * * * *
So: every two years, a small group of writers and artists meet at a haunted mansion in Northern California. What we find there excites us, terrifies us, and inspires us even after we leave. The Haunted Mansion Project: Year Two is our documentation of the four intense days we spent together in the house in September 2012.
The contents range from the official site report prepared by the GhostGirls to survivors’ subjective accounts of their experiences to short stories and poetry inspired by the house’s atmosphere and the things that occurred there. Damnation Books published the book in June. It’s available from Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00DF74TF2/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B00DF74TF2&linkCode=as2&tag=cemettrave-20
Rain Graves, S.G. Browne, Fran Friel, and I will read from the Haunted Mansion Project: Year Two at the Borderlands Café (870 Valencia Street, San Francisco) on November 3 at 3 p.m. Hope you can join us.