Rose Collins – The Night Before Christmas
It was the night before Christmas and all through the house not a creature was stirring,
Not even a … BEAR ?
The ancient “Twas the night before Christmas” poem is brought beautifully to life in this gorgeous picture book with a twist- as Santa visits a family of bears on Christmas Eve.
Share the Christmas magic and experience a whole new retelling of the timeless Christmas classic with The Night Before Christmas by Rose Collins.
With beautifully illustrated pages, The Night Before Christmas is the perfect gift for any child.
Alfred Eyrie – Memoirs of a Haunted House
Memoirs of a Haunted House is a somewhat fictionalized memoir of my childhood living in a house that had a reputation for being haunted. My parents did not seem to notice the effects of the house on our family…until it was too late. Of course, the story is not only about the sense of death I experienced there, but also about the house’s life.
I confined the story to my middle-school years, but there are still some good Christmas memories in there along with some of the other seasons. Here is one I’d like to share:
The Applegate manor lay atop a small knoll in the middle of a wide, prosperous farm. The family had been one of the first to come west and settle this valley, and their influence on local politics was still widely felt. The house had sat atop that little hill, surrounded by pear and apple orchards and grassy pastures, for a hundred and fifty years. It was like one of those mansions in the movies: three stories high in the middle, with a two-story wing coming off of one side that had obviously been built some time later. Dad was practically drooling as we parked the van in the nearby pasture that had been cleared of snow.
“Now remember, kids,” Dad cautioned us before we mounted the wide, stone steps that led to the front terrace, “children are meant to be seen and not heard.”
“Don’t break anything,” Mom offered in her own, helpful way.
I tried not to look impressed as we walked up to that grand, front entrance, but Dad’s mouth was hanging open, and I think it spoke pretty well for the rest of us. Even the Rockefeller Inn was just a house compared to this place. Two wide, double doors opened into a vast, marble-floored entry hall. There was a chandelier hanging overhead that sparkled with a thousand glass crystals, and a two-story Christmas tree rose from the base of the wide, stone staircase that led to the second-floor landing.
A house servant—a real butler, Mom noted—ushered us down the hallway and into the ballroom. I had never been in a real ballroom before. At least, not counting when we played Clue and I had to move into the ballroom to make an accusation like “it was Mr. Green with the lead pipe”. I was prepared to be overwhelmed with splendor and awe. I was not prepared to be overwhelmed with the feeling of dread that met me at the door.
I hesitated at the entrance to the grand chamber. Dad urged me forward, and I took a step or two into the room before turning off to one side. My parents left me there with my sudden onset of timidity. All around me, the valley’s richest and most important people were mingling amongst each other, laughing and smiling and talking over the music coming from a set of speakers on the bandstand at the far side of the room.
It was the music that had stopped me. Some classical piece of music sung by a choir of high-pitched boys or something. At the time, though, it sounded like screaming. Women, and children screaming. Like some kind of demonic doorway to hell had opened up in that grand hallway and the voices of a thousand lost souls could be heard crying out. I could feel their terror, could feel the sadness of their fate oozing from the very walls of that house. The air seemed thick with their cries; the room seemed far more crowded for me to dare walk through it.
Why didn’t it bother anybody else? Didn’t they hear all that screaming?
I inched along the wall, not daring to expose my back to…I don’t know what. Everything about that place suddenly felt wrong. Was it the music? Was it just my imagination again?
I felt trapped. No. It was the screamers. They were trapped. Trapped within the walls of this prestigious, old home. Trapped inside its memories. Trapped inside its unhappiness. Brought back from limbo and held in torment by these songs and traditions of Christmas. By this crowd of merrymakers who seemed all but oblivious themselves to the misery around them.
I did not want to join that party. I did not want to end up trapped. To my right, I spied an open pair of French doors leading out onto a patio. I darted towards them, not bothering to tell my parents where I was going.
I could still hear the choir singing. Only, it wasn’t singing. It sounded as if a hundred voices were wailing and weeping in despair. I couldn’t understand how that could be, considering the festivities around me. Nobody else seemed to notice the noise, and nobody seemed to have any trouble with the overwhelming stuffiness of that expansive ballroom. As soon as I had passed through the French doors onto the patio, I felt the weight of the air return to normal, but the singing still gave me the shivers.
Gathering up my wits, I found myself standing on a luxurious patio, lit by a silver moon and thousands of white Christmas lights in the well-pruned shrubs and trees that lined the edges. A cluster of tables and chairs had been scattered around a large, circular fire pit at the center of the patio. Dazzled by the beauty of the moment, I wandered slowly toward the blazing fire.
As the cold air and warm fire began to clear my head, I felt my body relax. I shivered one last time and then shook off that overwhelming feeling. Sinking into an empty chair beside the fire, I leaned forward to soak up the radiant warmth.
Then I started to wonder. What had happened in there?
I didn’t get time to think much more when a tall, lanky shadow appeared beside my chair. “A bit stuffy inside, isn’t it?” I recognized Mr. Johnson’s voice immediately—kind and curious and just as festive as he had been at Halloween—and I felt safe as he came to stand over me. Then he said casually, “You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
I stiffened, unable to explain what it was that had driven me from the house. In truth, he was wrong with his assumption; I hadn’t seen anything. “These old houses really creep my out,” I finally offered as an excuse.
Mr. Johnson tilted his head questioningly. “All of them?” Like his, I realized he was asking. And like mine?
“No,” I stammered quickly. My thoughts turned back to the mortuary, how similar the house was to my own, but how peaceful I felt inside of it. “Not all of them,” I said. “I like your old house.” I gestured toward the French doors. “But the music in there sounds like people screaming from beyond the grave.”
“My, you do have a big imagination,” Mr. Johnson said with a laugh. He listened for a moment, then shrugged. “I think that’s Handel’s Messiah.”
I looked up at him. “You know that song?”
He shrugged again. “Maybe. Not as well as I know this house.”
That perked my ears up. “What about this house?”
He seemed to hesitate before answering, as if there were more he might say…but didn’t. Instead, Mr. Johnson looked up at the tall, brightly-lit windows that looked out over the patio and said, “A curious place, the Applegate estate. Built in 1868 by John Monroe Applegate.” Seating himself in another patio chair beside me, he added, “The Third.”
“The third what, Mr. Johnson?” I said when he did not explain further.
“He was John Applegate The Third.” He leaned towards the bonfire for a moment, rubbing his hands together in front of him to help soak in the warmth. Then he added, “And you can call me Bob. No need to be stuffy and formal with me. I’m not here to rub shoulders and shake hands. I’m with the historical society. They invite us every year.” He looked down at me and winked. “It comes with owning one of the older houses in town.”
A thought came to me then. “Do you…” I hesitated to ask. “Do you know anything about the history in my house?”
This made him sit back in his seat and frown. He blinked a few times, then said, “No. Sorry. There’s not much I can tell you.” As if to change the subject, he suddenly pointed back at the French doors and said, “Your family’s having a lot of fun in there. Are you sure you don’t want to go join them?”
I shook my head. “I wasn’t having any fun in there.”
Mr. Johnson turned back to the fire and fell silent for a moment. Finally he said, “You know, having a big, old house isn’t always fun.” He leaned back in his seat and let his hands drop to his lap. “Some of them come with a lot of fixing up to do. Some have pests in the attic or bugs in the walls. Some of them come with a lot of expectations from the neighbors about how you’ll keep your lawn and decorate for Christmas.” He looked over at me. The fire crackled contentedly in the silence that followed. At last, he said, “Some come with other…strings…attached.”
“What kind of strings?” I asked.
He smiled kindly at me and rose from his chair. As he stepped past me, he put his hand on my shoulder and gave it a gentle, grandfather-like squeeze. “You’ll know it if you see it, Alfred,” he said quietly. “The question is whether or not you want to.”
And with that, he walked across the patio and back into the party.
Buy Memoirs of a Haunted House on Amazon