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Chapter 5: "The Tale"

June 10, 2008|By EVA NIESSNER

On the outskirts of Hagerstown, three New Yorkers gingerly stepped into a former farmhouse. Their hostess, a mother with two babies, had just said she could tell them about the haunted house next door.

The woman's living room was warm and smelled like sausage. Research interns Icarus Shortfuse and Aurora Benjamin sat on the couch; Police Officer Giovanni Fesano perched on the recliner. He looked as comfortable as a rhinoceros on a beach ball.

The two boys turned out to be twins, and they played contentedly on the floor while the woman, whose name was Karen Cordaman, stood in the doorway, keeping an eye on some dish on the stove as she spoke.

"My husband is very mistrustful of strangers," she said, looking at the food instead of them. "I think he might have some sort of paranoia, but he won't see a psychiatrist." Karen came a step further into the living room. "Well, as for that house, I moved in about a year after the scientists stopped the haunting next door. I've heard so much about the haunting, though, it's almost like I lived there."

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"What did you know about the woman who haunted it?" Aurora asked. "I mean, who was she?"

Karen paused a moment to think. "Her name was Bada or Badenne, if I recall correctly. Some unusual name like that. She had been about 20 when she was killed."

"Killed?"

"Oh, yes. By her mother, no less. Her whole life, Badenne's mother had let her do anything she wanted except date outside the Christian faith. But then Badenne fell in love with a very smart, rich, kind man who didn't believe in any god of any kind. When her mother was off on a trip, the two spent the week in that house right next door. But the mother came home early and found them. She got him off the property, but apparently Badenne and the man had a plan to run away together.

"However, it came to nothing. When the mother found out what she had done with that boy, she murdered Badenne. She was arrested the next day and died in prison a year later."

The New Yorkers were horrified. "What happened next?" Icarus asked.

"Yeah, and how long ago was this?" Fesano added, his Brooklyn voice quavering.

"Oh, this was aboutmaybe 10 or 15 years back," Cordaman said. "It was all over the news around here, and without a doubt the lover must have gone into mourning somewhere or killed himself."

"So the lover never came back?" Icarus asked. An idea occurred to him.

"No, of course not. By then she was dead and everyone knew it." Cordaman glanced back out into the kitchen. "Anyway, for years after that, the house changed hands dozens of times, and it was like a horror movie. I think 20 people died in that house - in no way accidents. They were simply found dead. Devout Christians like the girl's mother were especially vulnerable. Handsome young men who were not religious were usually spared. That girl's story manifests itself in the history of the haunting."

The last sentence sent shivers down Icarus's spine. It resonated with the idea turning over in his head.

"Thanks, Mrs. Cordaman," Icarus said, standing abruptly. "You've been a big help."

The three left the Cordaman house.

"We've got to get inside that house," Icarus said on the porch. He headed for Badenne's green-painted home. Fesano grabbed his collar.

"Not so fast, Sherlock. We need a warrant," Fesano said. "That's police tape, in case you hadn't noticed."

"Oh, come on," said Icarus, straightening his collar. "Let's just go under it."

"It's police tape and I'm a police officer," Fesano said. "I'm getting a warrant."

Icarus rolled his eyes, but mumbled "Whatever." However, police offices were understaffed that day and the bureaucratic process took hours. When Fesano finally received his permit, night was falling. The trio returned to find the house looking more spectacularly creepy than they could have imagined.

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