“Alright everyone,” said Mrs. Applewhite as she opened the door and stepped into the room from the hall outside. “Turn off the TV, put away the games, its reading time.” The children groaned in disappointment but did as they were told.
Mrs. Applewhite taught at Hawthorne, a private school and was allowed to take certain seventh grade students, those with exceptional grades, on an annual field trip to the art museum and other educational sites in Virginia. This year Hawthorne paid for the small group of travelers to stay at the Kresswell Bed and Breakfast Inn in Norfolk.
The eight children, Anne, Mary, Julie, Tammy, Milton, David, Jason and George all hung out in the boy’s room watching movies and playing games. Mrs. Applewhite even ordered pizza for everyone. Although Mrs. Applewhite allowed the children much time for play, she was stern when it came to her job as an educator, making sure the students spent a portion of time everyday involved in reading.
She walked in the room carrying a small stack of books and passed them out. They were all copies of a book of short stories called Chilling True Tales. Tammy opened her copy. “I don’t want to read this kind of book, not at night,” she complained.
“This book was the only one I could get multiple copies of on short notice,” Mrs. Applewhite said.
“Don’t be a sissy,” David said with a snicker.
“Halloween is this month anyway,” Julie said. “It’ll be spooky!”
“We don’t have to read the whole thing do we?” Milton groaned?
“I wouldn’t put you guys through that. The book contains multiple stories, so each of you just read one,” Mrs. Applewhite said.
Jason opened the small mini-novel sized book and flipped through its pages. The stories were short, maybe fifteen to twenty pages each. Not too bad, he thought. George, Jason’s best friend, wasn’t much of a reader. “Can’t we read these tomorrow? George asked.
“Sorry Georgie, I want them read tonight. It shouldn’t take you too long. Afterward we’ll discuss what each of you read.”
Mary scanned the table of contents then raised her hand. “I want to read The Bakerville Ghost!
“Can I read Haunted Forest?” Anne asked.
“Sure, that will be fine,” Mrs.Applewhite said. “Each of you, choose a story that interests you most.”
The girls chose their stories rather quickly. Julie chose Ghost Train, and Tammy decided on one entitled The Bermuda Triangle Mystery. The boys took a little more time to pick theirs but Milton chose Bigfoot, David picked Cemetery Sightings, and George settled on the The Witch of Calcutta.
Jason was undecided until he ran across a story called Laundry Chute. What was so scary about that? The name seemed kind of funny so he chose that one. These were supposed to be true stories but Jason wasn’t so sure. He never believed in that kind of stuff and thought books like that were written just to scare people.
“Okay guys,” Mrs. Applewhite said, “I’ll be back in about forty-five minutes. That should be enough time for all of you to finish.” That said, Mrs. Applewhite closed the door and walked down the hall to her room. She would be back soon, so the room went quite as each person flipped through the pages of the book.
Jason sat on the floor, his back against his bed and read. Laundry Chute was about a small Bed and Breakfast, much like the one he and his school mates were in, that had a haunted laundry chute on the third floor. Page 78 read:
“Does something evil lurk in the laundry chute at the Kresswell Bed and Breakfast on Petersburg Road in Norfolk, Virginia? Some say so. The haunted laundry hamper is a small 1x 1.5 foot hole with a small door attached. It’s located on the wall of the third floor hallway of the Inn. There are two more chutes on the first and second floors directly underneath the one on the third. But the alleged, horrifying events are only said to take place on the top floor.
As the story goes, a little girl named Penelope Spindleman, age twelve, was playing a game of Ring Around the Roseys with other girls her age on the third floor of the bed and breakfast. One particular girl in the bunch, Vivian, was aware of the fact that Penelope stole her boyfriend the day earlier.
When the part of the nursery rhyme came to ‘we all fall down’, the gang of girls together swept Penelope off of her feet and dropped her down the laundry chute three floors down into the basement. The drop inadvertently proved fatal and Penelope broke her neck when she hit the bottom.
Today, as some claim, if one should open the door to the laundry chute in the middle of the night, insert his arm and recite the Ring Around the Roseys nursery rhyme, a malevolent unseen force who some say is Penelope, will grab hold of the arm and pull him down into the basement once the rhyme if finished. Many locals testify that this is has been happening since 1887.
Jason wondered, something like that couldn’t be true could it? No, impossible, it was too far fetched.
But what if the Kresswell Inn in the book was the same in which he and friends were situated? The book said it was located in Norfolk, Virginia. They were in Norfolk Virgina. The street location in the book was called Petersburg Road. Jason leapt up from his spot on the floor, onto his bed and looked out the window after moving the curtains. He couldn’t see the street sign on the corner from where the room was.
Jason sat on his bed and watched everyone reading the book. Mary, Tammy, and Julie were on the floor, their pages wide open and Anne sat against the TV stand. Milton and David each sat up in their beds. Jason called to George who was lying on the floor on his side. “Hey George, you finished yet?”
“Nope, this story is kind of boring.”
“What’s it about?”
“Some witch, supposedly she put curses on people.”
Jason came off of the bed and sat next to George on the floor. “The book says that these stories are true. Do you think they are?”
“I don’t know. Probably not.”
Mary looked up from her book. “They could be. My friend’s mom says she seen a ghost. It was the spirit of her dead uncle.”
“They’re not true. None of this stuff is. It’s all just for fun,” Milton said.
“I don’t know how any of this can be fun. I don’t like scary stories,” Tammy said.
“It’s just fiction. This stuff can’t happen, just close the book and it’s done,” David said.
“Be quiet. I’m not done reading yet,” Julie interrupted.
Everybody went back to reading except Jason. He was finished and kept thinking about the Kresswell Bed and Breakfast in Norfolk, Virgina.
“I’m going to the bathroom. I’ll be back,” Jason said as he got up, walked to the door, opened it, and stepped into the long, poorly lit hall. He had to know if it was the same homestead in the book so he decided to take a hike up to the third floor.
He made his way up quietly, not wanting Mrs. Applewhite to hear. She would scold him for snooping around. After making his way down the long corridor, passing by rooms occupied by other guests, he found the stairwell at the end.
When he made it to the third floor, there was a sign on the wall in the stairwell next to the door of the hall that read employees only. This was the floor where extra bed spreads, sheets, and storage was. Disobeying the sign, Jason opened the door and stepped through.
He flipped the light switch but it didn’t work, the bulb probably needed changing. Jason stood at the lengthy hall’s end staring down into darkness. His eyes adjusted quickly and there it was on the wall at the end of the hall; a small square door, painted white with a little black knob. At first Jason didn’t believe it, but it was there.
It’s just a stupid hamper chute, that’s all, Jason thought. There’s nothing in that chute but air, he told himself and made his way back downstairs.
Back in the room, Jason closed the door behind him and joined the others who were carrying on, none of them were reading, Jason guessed they were all finished. Soon after Jason got back, Mrs. Applewhite opened the door and stepped inside. “Everybody done?”
“We’re finished,” Anne said. David yawned and Tammy had fallen asleep on the floor “Looks like its late,” Mrs. Applewhite said. “We’ll go over what we’ve read tomorrow after we get back from the museum. Girls, it’s time to go to your room.” Julie shoved Tammy to wake her up.
“Remember the bus will pick us up at 8:00 in the morning, so I’ll be knocking on your doors to wake you up at 6:30, enough time for everyone to have breakfast and shower, alright?”
The girls marched out of the room, single file, down to the room they shared and the boys each hopped in their own bed. Mrs. Applewhite turned out the light and went to her room to retire.
A few hours later in the dark, while everyone slept, Jason lay awake in his bed, still thinking about the laundry chute on the third floor. George’s bed was next to his. “Hey, George, you awake?” Jason said in a whisper.
George grumbled. “I am now. What do you want?”
“I have to tell you something.”
“About the story I read earlier.”
“What, did it give you a nightmare?” George said with a scoff.
“No,” Jason said confidently. Hey, what if…what if those stories are true?”
“Don’t worry, they’re not.”
“But I think they are.”
“The story I read was about a bed and breakfast in Norfolk, Virginia. Just like this one.”
“There are probably plenty of bed and breakfasts in Norfolk.”
“The name of the inn in the book is Kresswell, this inn is named Kresswell.
“The book said it was on Petersburg Street.”
“Is this one on Petersburg?”
“I looked out the window and couldn’t see.
Jason moved the curtains and peered out the window again. “But I guess there’s only one way to find out.” He unhooked the latch of the window, sat up on his knees and lifted the window open.
“What are you doing?” George asked.
“What does it look like?” Jason replied and stuck his left leg out of the window. “Come on. Let’s go see what street this place is on.” George felt it couldn’t hurt. Besides it seemed like fun to sneak out at night. “Alright, wait up.
Jason had completely jumped out of the window feet firmly on the cool grass then George began to climb out next. “Hey, where are you guys going?” Milton asked in a groggy voice from his bed, the side of his face smashed in his pillow. “No where, we’ll be back. Go back to sleep,” George said. Milton didn’t seem to care and went right back to sleep.
Jason in his pajamas and George in a t-shirt and jogging pants walked down the sidewalk in the cool night. They passed by a small park, a few houses and many cars parked along the street. In a mere five minutes they reached the corner and the boys looked up at the street signs hanging on the post. One street was called Simmons and the street on which the inn was located was Petersburg.
“Whoa,” George said. “Maybe the story in the book is true? What was that story about?”
“The book said that there was a laundry chute on the third floor of the inn and if you put your hand down the chute and recite Ring around the Roseys, something will grab your hand and pull you down into the basement.”
“I know right. Remember when I went to the bathroom earlier?”
“Well I didn’t. I went upstairs to the third floor. And there’s a laundry chute up there at the end of the hall just like in the book.”
“No way. This I gotta see,” George said.
The boys quickly made their way back to the bed and breakfast and climbed back through the window into the dark bedroom. David and Milton slept soundly while Jason and George quietly walked through the room, slowly opened the door, stepped out in the hall and shut it silently behind them.
Jason and George wore socks so their footsteps made no sound as they tip toed down the hall. They reached the end of the hallway and climbed the staircase all the way up to the third floor. George saw the employees only sign on the wall next to the door but defiantly opened it anyway. He flicked the light switch up, like Jason before him, and of course the light didn’t work. The long dark hallway was eerie and silent.
The two paused for a moment, staring down the grim corridor. “There it is,” whispered Jason, pointing down to the end of the hall at the hatch on the wall. “Maybe this is dumb,” Jason said. “Let’s go back downstairs.”
“You made me sneak out of the window and we’re up here now. There’s no point in going back now,” George said.
The boys walked down the hall, passing closed doors on either side along the way until they stopped directly in front of the chute. “Open it,” Jason said. George hesitated. “Go ahead, open it,” Jason urged. George turned the black knob and pulled the small door open. The straight edged hole in the wall was a pitch black.
“See, it’s just a regular laundry hamper,” George said.
“Take a look down there,” Jason dared.
George grabbed the lower edge of the chute and took a peek down into the blackness. “Nothing, there’s nothing there, look.” George put his hand in the hole, waving it in the air.
“Stick your whole arm down there, as far as it will go,” Jason dared once more. George sighed and took the dare. He stretched his right arm all the way down the chute as far as he could until the bottom ledge reached his armpit. He swished his arm back and forth in the emptiness as if wading it in a pool of water. “Nothing. There are no monsters in here. Let’s go.”
“Wait, you didn’t repeat the words,” Jason said. “You have to say the rhyme for it to work.”
George glared dryly, his arm still hanging in the chute. “What am I supposed to say?” he asked.
“Ring around the Roseys,” Jason replied.
George didn’t want to say it; he was scared but would never admit it. But it was too late; he’d gone this far and wanted to prove that he had guts. George nervously cleared his throat and said the rhyme in its familiar tune.
“Ring around the roseys… a pocket full of poseys… ashes, ashes…we all fall down.”
George finished the entire song and everything was quiet. Nothing happened. Jason sort of expected as much and George smiled. “Told you so. The stupid stories in that book aren’t tr…” Seriousness came over George’s face. “Help! It’s got me!” George said. Jason rushed to grab hold of his friend’s shoulders to aid him.
“Ha! You should have seen your face!” George said and pulled his arm out of the chute.
Jason felt dumb, yet relieved and let George go. “Let’s go back downstairs,” George said gripping the edge of chute door to close it. Without warning, a hand, white as milk and decaying skin came up from the chute and clutched George’s right wrist. His eyes widened as he screamed.
Jason grabbed hold of George’s arm with both hands and pulled as hard as he could to break George free. “Get it off me!” George cried but the dead hand dug its fingers deeper into his flesh. Trying to break the grip of the hand, Jason pulled on his friend’s arm. George grunted struggling, but the emaciated fingers wrenched even harder. It pulled his whole arm completely into the chute up to his shoulder as George pressed against the wall with his free hand in resistance.
The other hand belonging to the thing in the chute came up from the dark hole in the wall and clutched the collar of George’s shirt. With a one immense jerk, George’s head and torso entered completely in the square void as he screamed Jason’s name. Jason grabbed hold of George’s legs pulling in a tug of war with the thing.
“Help! Somebody!” Jason cried as loud as he could in an effort to wake someone. “Help us!” Crunching sounds came from the chute and blood spurted from it, spattering all over George’s white t-shirt in dark red. Jason pulled harder and George’s body went limp. “Help! Somebody please!” Jason called.
Penelope Spindleman, known to her students as Mrs. Applewhite, pulled herself up from behind George’s body from within the dark chute. Shadows covered her face but Jason could see the pale white of her rotting skin and bloodied mouth. She had taken bites out of George. With a strong yank downward, she pulled George completely into the chute and his body fell all the way down to the bottom.
Jason pulled away from the chute to escape and run down the hall not before Mrs. Applewhite seized his arm and jerked him to her. He looked in the hole, into Mrs. Applewhite’s glowing star-light eyes. He screamed in the hall for help as tears streamed down his cheeks. “Somebody help me!”
Mrs. Applewhite bit into Jason’s neck and with a solid tug she pulled his entire body into the chute. She descended down with him along with the sound of snapping bones. Jason’s screams echoed down the shaft until all was silent in the empty hall. Then by itself, the door to the chute slammed shut.
As you might have guessed, the missing boys caused quite a stir in Norfolk the next morning. However, as far as Milton knew, Jason and George snuck out the window in the middle of the night and never came back. And everyone knows, adolescents run away all the time.
Copyright © Abel Ramirez