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The Ghost and the Gallows: Tale of an Unexpected Encounter

It was Friday the 13th; it was also my birthday. The first snow of the season fell in tiny, stinging pellets as my fiance, Chris, and I made our way to the meet-up point for the haunted walk. The tour’s destination was the old county jail, now fashioned into a hostel where guests could explore the tiny cells that once held the city’s worst criminals. They could even sleep in them, except on the eighth floor: death row.

Not concerned with ghosts or spirits, I kept my attention on the tour guide, never interrupting with questions or corrections, but listening intently as he told stories of our city’s past lives—from aboriginal folk tales to unmarked graves beneath certain city streets. Chris followed closely behind. He kept his arm around me, guarding against the late-autumn chill.
As we entered the building, I felt a different kind of chill. It was subtle at first, and I pushed it to the edges of my mind, focusing on the guide’s stories and performance. I’d always gotten goosebumps from a good story. I tried to convince myself that I was only feeling the effects of my imagination. I looked over my shoulder a bit anxiously, and Chris reassured me with a warm smile. We made our way with the group slowly up the stairs.
As we rounded a corner, we came to a heavy wooden door that creaked on its hinges as the guide spoke. I wasn’t listening to the guide anymore. Dread had turned to a sharp, metallic fear as I debated whether to turn back. On the other side of the door was a very short hallway, no more than five feet between the first door and its twin on the other side. However, I’d considered too long. The group was already moving by ones and twos through the door.


I took Chris’s hand, and we passed through into darkness. The time it took to pass between the two doors couldn’t have been more than a few seconds. The cell that extended to the right in the space between the two doors was pitch black. As we stepped through, I heard a voice in my mind. It hissed with twisted pleasure: You’re in my house now.
My heart pounded, and it took all my effort to keep my breathing even as we stepped back into the light. I felt sick to my stomach as the alien voice played in my mind. It held a cold, carnal hunger. The guide told of murderers, political assassins, and other criminals who spent their last night on earth in the dark corridor we’d just passed through. Whatever I’d felt in my mind, it was now more monster than man, and it was hungry for female flesh. I took a deep breath, focused my thoughts, mastered my fear, and answered it in turn: This may be your house, but this is my mind. You are not welcome here. I felt an odd sort of pressure, as if an unseen force were testing the strength of my will. After resisting for a moment, it shortly subsided.
As we finished the tour and stepped outside, I inhaled deeply, my breath forming clouds in the chilly air. I silently vowed to myself never to cross that threshold again. Then, I realized that Chris had been extremely quiet through the whole ordeal. I looked back to find him pale and a bit distracted. We made our way to the pub, had a couple of quiet pints, and decided to call it an early night.
In the early hours of the morning, I awoke when Chris suddenly sat up in bed. I gently called his name, but he didn’t respond. Gathering my courage, I reached out and touched him. He turned to me smiling. The expression on his face was no longer his own.

**While the events of this story are purely fictional, it was inspired by the Ghost and the Gallows tour operated by Haunted Walk, Ottawa. If you’re in the National Capitol Region, be sure to check them out for an evening of excellent story-telling. If you’re braver than me, you can also book your stay at the Ottawa Jail Hostel. 
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Richard Matt

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