Johnson County Library is pleased to announce that Georgia M. has won third place in the youth age group for the Scary Stories 2021 Youth Writing Contest with this piece "The Ghosts at Tanuki Mansion."
I’m not sure if I believe the rumor that Tanuki Mansion is haunted.
I’ve been there multiple times on school field trips, and only minor ‘scary’ things have happened.
My brother Tino believes it.
I think it’s because his best friend,
Mason, comes up with these crazy stories about ghosts haunting the upper floors.
Now, when the third graders go to Tanuki Mansion on a field trip, Tino stays home and pretends to be sick.
This Thursday is when the sixth graders go. Mr. Oar says to dress ‘festively,’
whatever that means.
I picked out an outfit that includes a black T-shirt with a pumpkin on it.
And added an orange and black striped skirt with black leggings underneath
and orange and black striped socks that match the skirt.
You’re being too festive, Tino said, looking at my outfit with disgust.
Shut it, I said, pointing at my door. Get out.
Do you have your lunch money?
It’s the day of the field trip and Mom is stressing.
Dad still hasn’t returned from the
midnight concert he went to with one of his buddies. And Mom is taking her stress out on me and Tino.
Do you have your mask?
I hold up my wrist. My orange Athleta mask dangles in front of her face.
Where is your water bottle?
I shake my HydroFlask at her.
We’re gonna be late.
Do these jeans make me look...nevermind.
We get to the school seven minutes late. Mom apologizes about a hundred times in the ten minute car ride to school.
I didn’t even know that was humanly possible.
She checks me in at the fold-up table they have set up along the curb of the ‘Pick-up and Drop-off’ zone.
I head over to my friend Lei who is standing in line at the bus. We elbow bump.
How are you? she asks, adjusting her backpack straps.<
Pretty good. I say, standing on my tip-toes to see the front of the line. And you? Pretty good.
Mr. Oar pulls up in his car and hops out.
Are you ready my young adventurers?!
Yeah!! we all say.
Mr. Oar jogs over to the bus door and yanks it open.
Alrighty then. Let’s goooooooooooooooo…
(It goes on for more o’s, but I wouldn’t be able to fit it on the page.)
I have to admit, the first glimpse I get of Tanuki Mansion definitely (horror) screams HAUNTED.
The groundskeeper apparently let the
vines get out of control and grow up the side of the house. Stereotype, yes, I know.
All the windows are closed.
I know that doesn’t seem very scary, but, trust me,
you wanna leave your windows open during these hot, Louisiana summers.
And also, there was a headless scarecrow in the main cornfield.
The reason I knew it once had a head
was because there was a rotting Jack-o-lantern sitting on the ground next to the base of the scarecrow.
Does this say creepy or does this say creepy?
The bus pulls up to the entrance next to the fountain which has algae in it.
Mr. Oar tells us to make a single file line and
Walk out the door in an orderly fashion.
As I walk off the bus, I hear the sound of a door being slammed shut.
It seems like Lei heard it too because she whirls around to face me.
We share a look.
Not haunted! we shout, reassuring ourselves, as Mr. Oar leads us through the old oak doors.
Have to admit, the house is pretty cool.
There are winding staircases that lead up to the second, third,
and fourth floors.
There’s also a giant organ that is in ‘Living Room A2.’
(There are seven living rooms alone on the first and second floors.)
We take a break for lunch and eat in the Dining Hall.
Lei estimates that it’s about sixty feet long and
forty-five feet wide.
We hear a really weird sound in the middle of lunch. The organ is being played in Living Room A2.
But everyone is in the Dining Hall. All the teachers too.
Me and Lei look at each other.
Maybe not haunted! we shout as we jump up from our plush velvet seats.
The rest of the tour is pretty boring.
Well, right up to when we hear doors being slammed up on the fourth floor. Now, everyone seems pretty uneasy.
Lei is gripping her backpack straps so hard
her knuckles have turned white. I raise my hand.
Yes, Jasmine? Mr. Oar asks.
I need to go to the bathroom, I say abruptly, Lei needs to go too.
Mr. Oar looks at Lei, who nods, giving me a strange look. He waves us away.
I don’t actually need to go to the bathroom. Neither does Lei.
We run down the hall in the direction of the bathroom so Mr. Oar thinks we’re actually going.
But we end up running up the stairs to the fourth floor instead. We can tell this floor used to be a nursery.
Cots line the walls of the giant bedroom leading off the hallway.
Dust-covered shelves hang over dust-covered toys.
Classic haunted house decor.
We hear growling around the third room.
Haunted! we both say, stopping.
Hello? I ask into the dark. More growling.
Me and Lei walk down the hall tip-toeing.
We end up at the other staircase without finding anything.
The next stairs down. Nothing.
Apparently Mr. Oar brought the rest of the kids
back down to the second floor.
The third floor is the one with the giant rafters.
Growling. Growling. More growling. I look around.
Peeking through doorways. Finally,
I look up.
A wolf stares down at me with cold, dark eyes.
I try to scream, but no sound comes out.
The wolf jumps to the hayloft that takes up half the ceiling and growls again.
I gulp and squeeze Lei’s hand.
Let’s go up there, Lei whispers, pointing with her other hand up the stairs to the hayloft.
Oh yeah, an easier target for the wolf! I whisper/shout at her. Fine.
We start climbing.
Lei emerges to the hayloft first and I hear more growling.
But when I emerge, I hear whining and the wolf runs at me. I cover my face and scream.
But I don’t get hit.
All I feel is a soft wetness on my elbow. I look up.
My mask shifts down under my nose and I pull it up. Duchess shakes her tail and prances around.
Her head held high.
No Duchess! Tino emerges from behind some old boxes,
You’re supposed to scare them!
Tino? Another figure emerges, Mason?
Lei looks up, You’re the ghosts? Yup! Tino and Mason bow.
I believe this is what people call: Dumbfounded. Lei asks the question that’s been revolving around my head
for the past five seconds.
How did you get here?
My Mama brought me. And Mason came with me.
Why would Mama bring you? I asked, taking Duchess by the collar so she wouldn’t fall off the edge of the hayloft.
Mason jumps in, Haven’t you heard about the traditional third grade Haunted House prank?
We shake our heads.
Every year, when the sixth graders take their field trip, two of the third graders go up there too,
so that they can scare the pants right off the sixth graders, Tino explains.
And if you do scare them, the third graders get
two whole baskets of candy,
and get their names in the third grade ‘Wall of Fame’ Mason says,
rubbing his hands together.
Mama did it when she went to our school,
so she brought me and Mason up here, Tino says.
So it was you slamming all the doors? Lei asks. They nod.
And you who were playing the organ?
They nod again.
Wait, how did you play the organ without anybody seeing you? The teachers went to check it out and said no one was there.
Tino waves a styrofoam cup in my face
and shows me the weight he put in it.
I taped a string to this cup and it helped me play without anyone seeing me play.
We hid on one of the rafters on the first floor and then dangled it down.
Then, when we heard the teachers coming, we reeled it up.
That’s...actually kinda smart, I said. Tino grins at me.
But the real prize comes if you scare one of the teachers.
Then they have to buy both of you something that is under a hundred dollars. Wow. By the way...I don’t see Mr. Oar doing that, I said.
Can we help? Lei asks.
What, no wa--
Wait, if we tell them no
then they could go tell Mr. Oar and we wouldn’t get that remote control car
we’ve been wanting, Mason cuts Tino off. Tino clears his throat.
I guess you can help us.
Together, we made a plan to scare Mr. Oar. Tino and Mason would play the organ.
Me and Lei would release dry ice through the vents and then make
‘ghost sounds’ through them. If that didn’t work,
we would all dress up in white
and sing about the dead through the hallways.
We even painted Duchess white and told her to run through the halls
Everybody ready? Tino asks. We all nod.
We run off in different directions.
Me and Lei to one of the third floor rooms to get changed.
And the boys to the first floor to play the organ.
Tino gave me and Lei a walkie-talkie so he can tell us if part A didn’t scare Mr. Oar.
I clip it to my white jeans and pull my lacy shirt over it.
We hear the faint sound of an organ
being played downstairs. We’re sitting in the hallway with Duchess.
I’m pumping the dry ice through the vents
while Lei makes ghost noises.
We don’t hear anybody screaming, which I take as a bad sign.
Ten minutes later,
we hear Tino’s voice through my walkie-talkie.
Mr. Oar wasn’t scared. Initiate plan B! I repeat: Initiate plan B!
A few seconds later we hear:
Also Mr. Oar is on the first floor. Copy. I say back.
Are you ready to run? Lei asks.
She turns off the dry ice machine and gets to her feet.
For the good of all candy, I say.
We run down the hall as fast as we can.
Taking the stairs two at a time.
Duchess leads the way.
We charge onto the second floor. Down
We reach the first floor.
I have to admit it is fun
the rest of the class. We walk into the hall, singing,
where the rest of the sixth graders are busy staring at paintings. Duchess growls.
The class turns to look at us and screams.
they run around.
Even the teachers back away.
I point at Mr. Oar and say (in my most spooky voice)
Duchess runs at him, followed by Tino, Mason,
We scream bloody-mary at the top of our lungs. Mr. Oar covers his face and screams.
We stop short just a few feet ahead of him. He uncovers his face and looks at us.
he starts laughing. That’s the best one yet! What? I say.
I’ve been the sixth grade teacher for eight years -- do you think this is my first Haunted House prank? Now I feel kinda stupid.
Standing in front of the class like that, wearing all white.
Oh, you got me.
He hands Tino and Mason two full, and I mean
baskets of candy.
Yes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (it goes on for more !’s but, you know)
Well done. I believe this is the
first time any sixth grader has participated in the Haunted House prank.
Me and Lei shrug.
Well, good job girls.
I wondered why you weren’t back from the bathroom yet. But it felt awkward to ask,
he says, winking.
He turns to the class and says:
Halloween party in the Dining Hall!
And everyone runs.
Not actually knowing where the Dining Hall was.
A Note from the Author
I’ve recently started reading books in verse, and wanted to try it out for myself. This was my first time experimenting with writing in verse. I hope you enjoyed The Ghosts at Tanuki Mansion!