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October 29, 2020 By Judy Mulenberg

The Haunted House

Ever since I can remember it lay on the mantle above the fireplace in our house. It was a yellow ceramic hand that was very cold to the touch. It was perfectly shaped to be laid on someone’s shoulder or to be raised in a ghoulish handshake. This is the story of how it began its journey into my family and remained a treasured item throughout my childhood.

My dad loved to describe his adventures, and this one was best told on a dark and stormy day. But it didn’t matter; he loved to tell the tale whenever any kid was there to listen.

Richmond, California, was a hub of shipbuilding during the war. After the war thousands of those workers stayed, and, with thousands of GIs returning, housing was at a premium. My father was a bit of an entrepreneur, so, when he returned home from the war, he decided to buy and renovate houses.

There was a tall, spooky house just down the street from where we lived. A hoarder formerly occupied it, so the hallways of the house were filled with boxes of stuff. Treasures of knick-knacks, dishes, and old furniture were everywhere. When my dad bought that old house, it was in a sad state of disrepair and very cluttered. Many hours of carpentry, painting and repair went into that house. But, in my family, what was remembered happened on a dark and gloomy day.

There was a dilapidated balcony facing the street above the front door of the house. One day, as my dad was working upstairs, he noticed a group of kids walking by. He couldn’t resist. He picked up an old sheet, wrapped it around himself, wobbled over to the porch window and began making all sorts of loud ghostly noises. The kids took off running home.

My dad was trapped in that house for several hours as the kids kept dragging their dads by, pointing up at the balcony and saying, “That’s where it was, Daddy. We saw the ghost right up there.” So ever after, that old dilapidated house became known as the Haunted House.

And the yellow shiny ceramic hand? When my dad found it, he just couldn’t resist playing a trick on my grandpa. Grandpa was a really talented guy who helped out with the renovation of that old Haunted House.

I don’t know exactly how it happened. As Grandpa was walking down the stairs, he suddenly felt this icy cold hand on the back of his neck. He let out a loud yelp. I can imagine what happened when he turned around to lock eyes with the prankster who had tried to scare him. My grandpa was pretty good-natured, so he took all the teasing in stride.

Forever after, that cold, haunted ceramic hand brought a chuckle instead of a scream when the tale of the ghost and the Haunted House was retold.

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