Happy Friday the 13th and welcome to the first edition of Ghostwriting, Audiences Everywhere’s first community-driven collection of spookiness and assorted scares. Each piece was contributed by an AE writer or reader. Do you have story? DM us at @WeTalkMovies if you’d like to share it.

Look for the next edition Friday, October 20!

One More Song

Despite my religious beliefs nowadays, I spent most of my childhood and teenage-hood a staunch atheist. I didn’t believe in ghosts. I didn’t believe in an afterlife. I didn’t believe in a God. Fast-forward a few years and I’m now a believer and quite imbued in my faith. What kick-started my interest in faith, the supernatural and horror movies was my very own ghostly encounter. It changed my life forever – I still regularly think and have recurring dreams about it.

I had just turned 12. Literally. It was a minute past midnight, October 19th. Instead of being in a celebratory mood, I was being rushed to the hospital with my parents. My grandmother – the most important human being in my formative years – was about to give her last breath. A seven-year battle with cancer reduced to this one moment: my birthday. For brief context, my grandmother raised me alone for the majority of my childhood and remains the most inspiring figure in my life. Even after her death.

Ready for the chilling part? My grandmother was pronounced dead at 07:11, her hand clenched around mine. I was born at 07:11 on that same day 12 years ago. I only found out about this after the fact, my mother’s face pallid and incapable of hiding this news. It sent goosebumps rushing up my spine. But nobody really had time to talk this fact over. We were concerned with funeral arrangements, grief, and the entire horrendous cacophony of bullshit that comes with losing a loved one.

That night, I was sat on the edge of my bed crying. Alone. My parents were having dinner in the other room. Amidst tears, I began to hear a voice from outside the window. It sounded familiar. As I grew closer to the window, my heart sank and my eyes froze. My grandmother’s reflection. She was staring directly at me and singing “Happy Birthday” in Spanish. Even writing this now I’m being reduced to tears. It’s a moment I’ll never be able to perfectly describe or write about without feeling sick to my stomach.

I still read a lot of ghost stories with extreme skepticism. It’s just the way I am. Whenever I tell my own, I still try to feel out if any of it is being sensationalised. This is as stripped down as I can offer it. I don’t know what her reflection was. Was it really her? Was it my young mind’s way of finding closure? Was it a product of grief? Whatever it was, it still rocks me to this day. I find beauty and solace in the memory but also an innate feeling of fear. It’s creepy and always plays out very distorted in my mind. But I’ll always cherish it. @MrNerdista 

What Are You Looking At?

Look, I don’t know what the deal is, but I’ve always been a spiritually sensitive person. Whether it’s natural or self-taught is up for debate, but I’ve experienced my fair share of bizarre “otherworldly” experiences that have turned me into a total Mulder. Because of this, I’ve always been a weirdo-magnet.

In college, we used to go to “The Cheap Theatre” so nicknamed for its 3.50 admission if you didn’t mind waiting a few weeks longer to see what everyone was already tired of talking about. My girlfriends and I went to see things like Christina Aguilera’s Burlesque there, more than once, dressed up in costumes with outlandish makeup and feather boas, leaving glitter behind and making friends with the box office staff. We spent a lot of time there, and we saw a lot of different kinds of people.

But one night as I stood in line for my non-negotiable popcorn with butter, I noticed a short guy in the line next to me staring. This isn’t unusual. Men stare at women all the time. But this man was staring at me with a transfixed, angry gaze. When our eyes met, he let out a laugh and then immediately twisted his face into the glare again. I looked away, checked my phone, but whenever I looked back he was still staring with a shadow of anger across his face. It must have happened three or four times as the line inched closer, him laughing and then glaring like some broken robot toy, and I started to get angry myself. I decided to stare back and challenge him, or at least shame him into looking away. It didn’t work. Instead, he walked slowly over to my line, looked me dead in the eyes and whispered, “You can see through our skin, can’t you?” then he laughed eerily and walked away, out of the concession line, and straight out the front doors of the building. Me? I just went to see the movie I paid for. This kind of shit happens all the time. –@bexbz 

A Reassuring Sign

I lived with my grandmother for a wonderful three years after my mother had entered a particularly non-maternal phase. I was 12 and devastated when my grandmother died because a new chapter was about to begin with my family’s dysfunction. In the months following my beloved grandmother’s death, I made a peculiar connection of any flickering public street light as a comforting sign from my grandmother that she was watching over me and that I was doing okay. This “reassuring pat” continues to be a great comfort to this day (I’m 54) whenever a light flickers on or off at an unexpected time. I get that this was my psyche protecting me and helping me cope with my wobblies as a child.

So eight years ago, I had finished with the exhausting day of my father’s memorial service. I was living abroad and had three young kids at the time, so the rush trip to plan and execute my father’s memorial service was taxing. I took my dear friend to the airport at 6:00 AM the following day. Having known about my “light thing” with my grandmother for most of our lives together, my friend’s eyes opened widely as a street lamp turned off too early (it was still dark) as we waited at a traffic light. As we approached the airport, at another intersection, some train-crossing lights started blaring/blinking while the bar came down to prevent our crossing. We watched a train pass and both jumped upright to see the second half of this long freight train branded with massive, black, bold letters of C R O W L E Y blurring before our eyes before us. It was the first I ever knew of the existence of this transport company with the same name as my surname.

I dropped my bestie at the departures area and then started back to my hotel to join up with my remaining family in town. A red traffic light stopped me at the same train crossing intersection. Thoroughly fried from the emotional week, I started crying in my solitude. Just as my eyes swam with fat tears, a police officer pulled up next to me. He nodded and gestured an “are you okay?” message to me. I nodded so that he’d move on, but the floodgates opened (Hoover Dam?) because my father was a deputy in that city, and its Sheriff’s Department had just officiated at his memorial. The flickering lights, the CROWLEY train, and a cop nodding to me in the span of 30 minutes felt like that same spiritual reassurance I always got from my grandmother that I’d be okay.

I don’t hear a train now without thinking of that pat on the shoulder I felt eight years ago. As I type this, it seems valid to say that my psyche found ways to cope/appease my neediness when my important people died. -Rahel Crowley

Jesse Sax Returns

I grew up in a coal mining house (specifically, my parents’ house was the house where the black coal miners were forced to live). So, the coal mine was right over the hill from there. It’s all gone now. Just an old railroad track that’s rotting into the ground. There’s been a fable about a coal miner named Jesse Sax who was electrocuted while working there. He’s supposed to haunt the road in front of my parents’ house. A number of people have claimed to be chased by something there. I don’t know how it was agreed upon that it was Jesse Sax, but Jesse Sax was real and his grave is tucked about three miles back into the woods. My dad walked every day. Had a golden retriever named Major and they walked 5-7 miles a day. And for a few years, every time he walked in the path through that graveyard, something weird happened in front of our house, above the mine the next night or morning. My aunt said she almost hit a person who disappeared, my mom said she saw a man walking in the field on the other side of the river, someone said they heard someone walking behind them in the late evening, etc. etc.

So, on July 4th of 1997, my dad walked Major past that woodland graveyard. We went to my aunt’s for a cookout and came home around ten o’clock. The bridge across the river washed out in 1995 and right before the drop into the river, there was a “Road Closed” sign.

Well, that night, my dad yelled at me and said, “Come look at this,” and I went out on my porch and watched this person-shaped fog come out of the woods and walk across that sign, highlighting that it was, in-fact, a person-shaped fog. And then it went across where the tipple used to be (floating over the water because the tipple is gone), and I swore a light turned on in front of it right before it disappeared.

And I just kept saying “What the heck is that? What the heck is that?”

And dad just shrugged, unaffected, and said “Jesse Sax.” -Anonymous

Pen Pal

My dad and aunts worked at a local inn as high school students. It was built in the early 1800s as a private residence and was later expanded into an inn, as it sits on the corner to two main roads through central Ohio. Now, it’s an expensive restaurant, but when my dad worked there in the late ’70s, the inn served buffet meals. My dad and the other employees, including the management, all experienced some sort of paranormal experience. The employees experienced strange things on the main floor, most often it was a case of hearing a stack of glasses fall and shatter, but nothing would be broken.

Supposedly, there was a friendly ghost who lived upstairs in one of the guest rooms. One of the rooms had a typewriter and every morning the manager would check the typewriter and there would be a new message for him, general greetings along the lines of ‘hi, how are you?’ And the manager would always type a response back. He was the only person who had the key to this room.

But there was another ghost, a malicious ghost, who supposedly lived in the basement. It was rumored that this was the ghost of a firefighter who, decades ago, went into the building to save a little girl and didn’t make it out. One time, an employee went in the basement alone, an act which everyone tried to avoid, and she came upstairs screaming that someone in the basement said her name, and that she could smell smoke. -Anonymous

The Foot of the Bed

When we lived in West Virginia, we owned a house built in 1920. Several times I woke up to a vision of a woman standing at the foot of our bed, staring out the window. I also had a vision of my daughter sitting on my bed (she was one) while she was asleep, and at other times heard her babble as though someone was there although I knew she was by herself. Things like this haven’t happened to me anywhere else. Haunting? Carbon monoxide? Overactive imagination? -Anonymous

Steps Behind

I have had a few ghost experiences in my life. The first and only time I can recall actually seeing a ghost, was when I was a little kid. My great grandmother had recently passed away and we were at her house with the rest of the family, collecting belongings. I remember quite clearly seeing my great grandmother in the house while we were there. I wasn’t old enough to realize that she should not have been there.

It still remains one of my vivid childhood memories.

In my junior or senior year of high school, I had my second experience. I took guitar lessons in an old office building downtown. I always felt a little uncomfortable while waiting in the hallway for my lesson to begin. I had always assumed that it was just nerves, wanting to do well in my guitar lesson. One day, I sat down, getting ready to play and my guitar teacher told me that the boy whose lesson was before mine, saw the ghost. My guitar teacher went on to explain that there was a ghost of a teenaged girl in the building that people saw occasionally. While I never saw the ghost myself in the two years I took lessons there, I did have one supernatural experience with my brother.

As I mentioned previously, my guitar lessons were in an older office building. There were a few different businesses that shared the building. I used to wander around when I had extra time before my lesson. Upstairs there was a couple of very old fashioned looking bathrooms. If I kept going all the way down the stairs, there was spray paint on a door that said: fallout shelter. I honestly don’t know if there was actually one there, or if it was just a clever joke, adding to the overall creepiness of the room. One day my brother and I were both there and decided to explore the building. It was just he and I walking through the halls and up and down the stairs at the time. At one point on the stairs (we both clearly remember that it was just us) we heard an extra set of footsteps behind us. That was the last time that we ended up outside the door that said: fallout shelter. We were sufficiently creeped out at that time, and went back upstairs. From that point onward, I refused to go to my guitar lessons by myself. I let my brother sit out in the hall (by himself!) while I was in my lessons.

My final experience up to this point, was at my aunt’s old house in Upstate New York. I was preparing to make my move to Texas, and my aunt had some furniture that she wanted to give me. My parents came along to assist. We arrived around lunch time, so we all sat around the dining room table eating a pizza that my aunt ordered. At one point, I happened to see a cabinet door in the kitchen open out of the corner on my eye. I thought that was strange and said, “Mom, that cabinet door just opened.” My aunt replied, “Oh yeah, that’s just the ghost.” I didn’t give the event much thought after that. I figured she was just messing with me and I continued eating.

After lunch, I was walking down the hall, past the larger dining room. That room happened to have two glass and wood doors that were shut, closing off the dining room completely. As I walked by, the doors opened out toward me. ‘Well, that’s weird!’ I thought. I tried walking by it again, to see if maybe walking by may have caused the door to open for some reason. It didn’t move. I tried a couple times just to make sure. So once again, I shared with my Mom, “Mom, those doors just opened!” My aunt looked at me and said, “I told you, it’s the ghost!” I replied, “Oh… I thought you were kidding!” She wasn’t. She apparently just lived in that house with her family and a ghost for years. I have to give her props. Even if it was just a prank-playing ghost, I wouldn’t have been able to live in a haunted house!

Now, I live in one of the most haunted cities in the United States, San Antonio. But so far, I have not had another ghost experience. –@tehjessicarae

Bonus Story

Disclaimer: this ghost story isn’t completely true. I really did find a dead body in my back alley, and I really was afraid to walk by the spot, but I just wrote this fiction tale about the ghost to help me get over it. Spoilers: I got over it. Bonus Canadian lingo lesson: A toque is a wool hat you wear in the winter to keep warm.

The potential of my own imagination is what finally lead me to believe that every religious experience I’ve ever had is probably false. I know this, because I’m too scared to walk down my back alley right now because of a bloody toque.

The owner of said toque is dead. I know this, because I saw his body yesterday morning when I took my dog for his morning shit. I could tell he was dead because of the waxy colour of his skin and the empty feeling I got when I looked at what I could see of his face. He was mercifully covered with his hat and his hood in the early morning chill. It looked like he had just slumped down against the fence and quietly passed away. My dog was barking like an idiot, clearly not intuitive enough to understand that the body was empty, or perhaps he was trying to let me know something was a little fucked up. Dogs can tell when things are fucked up.

By the time someone else got involved and did all the things you’re supposed to do the man was laid on the ground, his hood and his hat fell off, exposing his shaved head. It lolled around sickeningly on the ground as someone attempted CPR, and I wanted to say “he’s clearly been dead too long for that…” but I didn’t say anything, I just stared at the man’s gaping mouth, the smear of dried brown blood across his cheeks, and thought, “oh, this is why first aid kits come with that mouth thing… yuck.” I always thought I’d be the more heroic type–not caring about putting my lips on someone’s stained with vomit in a dire situation–but I learned pretty quickly that’s not my first instinct. Apparently my first instinct is to take an inventory of hypothetical first aid supplies and consider their usefulness. I have a cataloguing brain.

Later that day when I headed to the market, I stopped and peeked around the corner, as if the body might still be there, even though I knew it was silly. Of course it was gone. I saw the ambulance arrive. I went the opposite way ‘round to reach the street and did my shopping, but on the way back curiosity got the better of me and I ventured closer. That’s when I discovered the ambulance had left something behind: one glove and a bloody toque. I walked past, feeling like the wrong end of a magnet to the spot. I went back into my home and comforted myself with the fact that the body was gone, at least.

The truth always comes out after midnight, and the truth was something else was also left behind. That night as I went to take my dog out, once again I peered slowly around the corner to see the toque. But it wasn’t there. Instead I could see at the end of the drive a man, standing, wearing that navy blue toque. I wasn’t wearing my glasses so I squinted hard and pulled the leash tight.

It was the dead man. And he stood, staring with unseeing eyes, his jaw slack and dry, his arms limp at his side. He stood between me and the park, illuminated by the flashing streetlight and the reflection of the moon off the rainy street. His open mouth is what terrified me most, no air crossed his lips, nothing could be seen inside. It seemed to be the blackest chasm I had ever seen and I was terrified of falling in. The more I looked at it, the bigger it seemed to grow. The man didn’t move in the rain, and I walked the long way around to the park. When I looked back, the man was gone, and just as I suspected, only his toque remained.

For three nights this happened, I was filled with cold terror at the man standing there.

I pictured a scenario where I got there in time to save his life. I pictured one where I did CPR and I put my mouth on his and I didn’t care when he vomited blood in mine. I imagined his family and their grief, and I wondered about his name and the life he lived. But more than anything, I began to imagine what he’d say to me, if he could.

“Why didn’t you help me?”

“You walked through my spirit, and now I can’t leave.”

“If you touch my hat, I’ll haunt you forever.”

“I heard you call me gross in your head.”

I waved at him once, to see if he’d react. He only stood more still, gave no indication of awareness of the world around him. I called out, but he did not move. He continued to appear, and I continued to avoid the laneway.

On the fourth day, I decided to face my fears. I leashed up the dog in the afternoon and I took him down the alley. Together we walked by the spot again and again, pacing like two guards in charge of a giant deadly beast. First in a wide berth, but each time closer and closer to the toque, the channel into the spirit realm that this man’s ghost had latched onto. I glanced at the dried blood, the logo on the cap, the spot where the body laid on the ground. Back and forth we went, over and over, until we walked over the spot where the man took his last breath and I didn’t feel afraid.

That night, as usual, I peered around expecting to the see the man, but he wasn’t there. Neither was his toque. But if the rain comes, and the moon reflects off the pavement just right, I swear I still see his mouth there, pulling in the world, and me with it, lost in an imaginary space because of what I saw. –@bexbz