Ghost Stories

by The Cowl Editor on October 25, 2018


Ghost standing in the middle of a broken down city
Photo courtesy of

The Carson Killer

He didn’t want to get caught. The day he was suspected the shadows scratched across the hardwood floors of 29 Carson Avenue, as though the sun were trying to drag them to the basement. Day or night the sun succeeded; a cellar filled with more dark than light said as much. That’s how dark it must’ve always been. Yet, it didn’t stop the man from making it more midnight than milky-way-with-no-stars down there. Sealed windows and a victim a week kept the room heavy with languor only he could enjoy. Save the unheard screams from his “play dates,” it was quiet. Seldom was there a reason to suspect him of all people in the neighborhood. He was squeaky. Not a speck on him. When all the gardening he did finally got him dirty enough to be a suspect, he was gone. The police found a letter at 29 penned to them and the neighborhood.

“Reach inside,” he wrote. “Dig and dig. Look for it. Look, actually look. I assure you it’s there. I’ve seen it. All of them had it. All of us do. I saw it. They saw it too, before I let them go. The Capacity for murder is there. Everyone’s a killer if pushed far enough. The Capacity is buried below the gallbladder for most or in between the heart and the right lung for the extraordinary. I can’t wait to find out more in each of you. I can’t wait to find out which one I am.”

He didn’t want to get caught…so, he didn’t.

—Dawyn Henriquez 19


“One of Them”

Halloween used to be my favorite holiday. Like so many others, I went trick-or-treating. I watched horror movies and visited haunted houses. I wasn’t immune to the world’s fascination with the dead who stay behind. But look where that got me. If this isn’t the definition of “cruel irony,” I don’t know what is.

Back then, costumes mattered. Halloween mattered. Now, the only thoughts I give the dark night are those of disgust. How, you must be saying, was I supposed to know how insensitive I was being when I was still alive? I can’t help it – I’m ashamed of who I used to be.

I remember my last Halloween. It was the first one after graduation and I’d driven three hours to my former roommate’s house in the middle of nowhere for a mini-reunion. Incredibles 2 had premiered that summer, so I was dressed as Elastigirl – not my most creative costume, but it was comfortable and, I had to admit, I looked pretty damn good in it.

The house backed up to a forest so dense I could hug two trees at the same time. It was my idea to go exploring there, to dare Death. After, I heard my friends rationalizing, claiming I didn’t deserve it. “She wasn’t thinking,” they said. “She’d had too much to drink.” They were kidding themselves. Cider may have played a part, but I was sober enough to know I was playing with fire.

Once we were in deep enough for the house lights to be swallowed by the wood, I started taunting the spirits, only half joking – Halloween isn’t fun unless some part of you believes in ghosts.

“C’mon out!” I yelled, laughing. “Bet’cha can’t scare us!”

The trees rustled incomprehensibly.

“Shut up!”

After a minute the air began to thin; only then did I pause to inhale and – I could have sworn – I heard the trees inhaling too. Suddenly, everything around me was thrashing violently. The wind scratched at my clothes, grabbed at my hair, and I screamed someone else’s scream.

Then, nothing.

Now I am one of them.

—Erin Venuti 20


Eco Terror

“So. We were in the woods. Hanging out. Smoking—,” he paused, pursed his lips. “Wait, you guys aren’t, like, tightasses are you?”

The interviewer gave him a dead-eyed stare.

“Okay, it was cigarettes. Eddie’s new girlfriend is some wannabe witch, always yapping about stones and the moon and other bull. So, she’s feeling the spirit of the holiday, talking our ears off about All Hallow’s Eve, about honoring the dead, and she whips out chalk. But we’re in the woods, so she can’t really do anything with it. I think Andrew made some comment about using it on leaves.” He snickered.

The interviewer was unamused. “Mr. Greene, could we please get back to the matter of Wednesday’s incident.”

“Right. So she turns to the damned trees, talking about nature and oneness with the earth and once she’s on her third symbol on the third tree the whole circle of ‘em starts vibrating hard enough to stop a heart beat. It made my legs feel like pudding.”

“The chasm, Mr. Greene.”

“Listen, telling a story is like weaving a web, it’s very delicate very preci—”

“We are on an incredibly limited time frame.”

“Alright. So the trees are vibrating and Casey’s on the ground screaming, begging forgiveness, and there must’ve been something lost in translation because the freakin’ ground opened up and swallowed her and we were all standing by the edges because we were freaked by that point… Eddie’s gotta be devastated.”

“And you wouldn’t say your perceptions of the event were affected by the… cigarettes you were smoking that evening?”

“No way. I’ve been paranoid before, I’ve seen ghouls in shadows, but my mind is not nearly creative enough to make that up. That girl was messing with some chaos magic or something. What are you all telling her parents?”

“Our agency doesn’t handle that, only containment procedure.”

“Containment procedure?”

“Of anomalies.”

“So this isn’t an isolated incident?”

“Mr. Greene, right now all I can discuss is this particular event. Did Casey mention anything at all about a group called the Circle?”

—Julia Zygiel 19


Home Alone

I wave goodbye as the last roommate’s car drives off into the darkening afternoon light. I sit myself down in my favorite beanbag with a mug of warm tea and close my eyes, the thought of having the house to myself causing a smile to play across my lips as I slowly drift into a lazy and much deserved nap.

Bang! A loud noise jerks me suddenly back to consciousness. My heart is in my throat as I look around wildly. Somehow, hours must’ve passed as the sky outside is a sheet of pure darkness. Inside, the dimness of the room without the lamps paints the furniture in white and black and gray, the same living room I have been used to for months made unfamiliar by the night. I hear the noise again.

“Hello? Back so soon?” I call out, hoping against hope that one of my roommates has simply forgotten her pajamas or her toothbrush.

The faint warbling of the wind answers me. From down the stairs comes a prolonged knock. One, two, three, four, five, six slow raps against the wooden door. “Did you forget your key?” I try again. No response.

Somewhere in the house the hundred-year-old floorboards creak and the windows rattle loose in their panes. The slow plodding of heavy footsteps reaches my ears. I turn and look into the kitchen, my eyes frozen and fixed on the door that guards the stairs. A screech of metal as the doorknob slowly turns. My heart has stopped beating altogether.

I hold my breath as the door swings open.

—Taylor Godfrey 19