Built in the early 1930’s for a man named Reginald Lavalle, there have been countless reports of bizarre occurrences and mysterious disappearances since the unsolved death of Mr. Lavalle. The staff that once worked for him claimed to hear the sounds of lone footsteps shuffling through the empty halls like a drunken man years after he passed. They even claimed to hear someone playing the piano in the library. These plus several other eerie rumors made Shadow Hills a popular tourist attraction during the 70’s.
People would travel from all around the world to the haunted mansion hoping to witness the supposed ghost of Lavalle. The stories were bringing a decent income and the interior was restored to its original art deco designs after it began to decay, but the once popular tourist attraction became the scene of several police investigations. Five people staying in separate rooms scattered around the mansion vanished without a single trace and two others were found dead in the hall where Lavalle was rumored to have disappeared. After a decade of investigations, it was permanently closed to the public and began to decay once again. Not a single soul stepped foot inside the mansion…until today.
Amy McKinley, alone in the world, arrived at Shadow Hills late one night. She stepped out of the cab with her bags, paid the driver, and sent him on his way. There was a heavy fog all around that seemed to dance in the moonlight. Her instincts told her not to ever come to this place, but as the world’s foremost paranormal investigator, she felt it was her duty to find out exactly what was happening in the mansion and try to put together the pieces of this unsolvable puzzle. The stories she heard about this mansion were unlike any other she had heard and it piqued her curiosity to the point where she had to know. She had to know what happened to Lavalle, why he was haunting this ghastly estate, what happened to the people who vanished and died, and she had to find out what other secrets the mansion itself may have been hiding.
She dug into her pocket for the key to the front gate wishing that she had waited for the rest of her team to arrive, but like all of history’s greatest explorers, she wanted to be the first one in. With the key in hand, she approached the heavy iron gate feeling a cold shiver run up and down her spine. Her heart began to race as she inserted it into the lock and turned it. Then, the rusty gate slowly creaked open allowing her access to the stone path leading up the mansion’s main entrance.
“Here we go,” she said to herself not realizing the nightmare she was about to enter.
She took in a deep breath and made her first step onto the property. She reached the main entrance and just as she put her finger to the bell, the massive oak doors swung open, and there stood Marcus Lamb. She laughed inside when she first saw him. He was an old man with pale skin, nearly dead eyes, and few strands of greasy white hair; everything she expected to see from a cheesy horror film. She was able to stay professional and greeted him with a handshake.
“I’m so glad you could make it, Ms. McKinley. You’re here a little earlier than I expected,” said Marcus.
“I wanted to start the preliminary tests to save my team the trouble of hauling all of their equipment here in case things don’t pan out.”
“Did the gate give you any trouble?”
“No, the key you delivered worked just fine.”
“That’s odd. Usually, it doesn’t allow anyone else to waltz in.”
With a raised brow she asked, “It “doesn’t allow” you said?”
He dismissed her and went on, “Yes, well, let me show you where you’ll be staying.”
She gazed past him and into the main lobby in awe. A deep red carpet led from the doors to a large staircase that split apart to the east and west wings. Up above, she could see a beautiful golden chandelier that lost its shine. Pillars made of marble lined the walls giving it an almost royal feel, but at the same time bathed many areas in shadows adding to the sense of it being a haunted mansion.
Looking nervously in every direction, Amy followed Marcus up the wide staircase and into the west wing as the sound of their footsteps on the thin carpet echoed throughout the vast room. She noticed various brightly colored paintings were hung on the walls depicting everything from children playing in peaceful fields to angels saving a woman and lifting her into the heavens. The only painting different from the others was a large oil painting of Lavalle himself hanging on the section of wall on the stairs between the east and west wings. He was probably in his late forties with deep-set eyes, no hair, and an oddly shaped broach on his coat. Already her mind was riddled with questions, so she decided it was time to start asking them.
“Was Mr. Lavalle a big art collector?”
“Not only art, but statues and gems, too. He was wealthy beyond imagination, but all he cared about was collecting rare objects. He paid all of us ridiculously when he was alive, so we knew money meant nothing to him.”
“Did anyone ever ask where he got some of these collectables?”
“You’ll see why in a moment. I keep all the pleasant pieces out in the lobby, but the others are somewhat…disturbing.”
She realized exactly what he meant when they walked through the west wing door. It was poorly lit and incredibly stuffy, but the paintings stood out clearly enough for her to see. Lavalle seemed to have a taste for gothic and biblical works of art. The paintings here were much darker in color than what was in the lobby and they depicted terrible events like the infamous witch burnings in Salem, people drowning during the great flood from the story of Noah’s Ark, and even a painting showing a demon about to strike a mother and baby sitting peacefully in a rocking chair.
“Was Lavalle a religious man?” asked Amy as they continued walking through the narrow halls.
“Not at first,” he began, “Mr. Lavalle started by collecting beautiful works of art like the ones in the lobby. A few years later, he added statues that were replicas of priceless work like Michelangelo’s David, but then he included rare gems.”
“That’s when he changed?”
“Yes. I remember he was especially protective of one jewel when it arrived. I can’t recall the name, but he kept it locked in a small wooden box that had strange carvings on it. The jewel itself was red and small, but it looked to me like it was part of a larger piece.”
“Is there any way I could take a look at it?”
Marcus shook his head with a disappointed look on his face, “Unfortunately, I don’t know where it is. He brought it over when the east wing was being built and made changes to the architect’s plans after showing us the jewel. After construction of the east wing was finished, he went back and made alterations to the west wing. During all of the construction and remodeling, he claimed to us that he lost the box with the jewel shard in it.”
“But you didn’t believe him?”
“Not one bit. His personality had changed so drastically after he acquired the jewel that I knew he was lying. He seemed to be in a constant state of paranoia, he was delusional, and he even attacked a member of the house staff in the middle of the night claiming she was some kind of demon that was going to kill him if he didn’t give her the jewel. Shortly after that incident, he told us he lost it.”
“He attacked someone?”
“Yes, but he paid for her medical treatments and gave her a hefty sum to keep quiet about the whole situation. He even built another smaller mansion behind this one for the staff to live in to avoid any other incidents.”
They arrived at the room where she would be staying. The walls here didn’t have artwork of any kind making it feel much less intimidating than what she’d seen so far. Across from the large bed against the wall to her right was a door that led to a small bathroom. Unfortunately, it was just as stuffy and dusty as everything else she had seen so far. She set her bags down by the bed and sat on it to feel how comfortable it was for fear that she might spend the next few nights sleeping on an old lumpy mattress.
“It’s softer than I thought,” she said.
“It’s one of those Tempur-Pedic beds, actually.”
“What? They had those in the thirties?”
“Not everything here is old. I had a few things replaced a year ago thinking I’d be able to open the mansion to the public again, but then I decided I was too old to run a business.”
“Oh,” she replied feeling dumb after asking.
“Well, if you need anything, you can use the phone to reach me in the secondary mansion. The number is on a card next to it on the table. Goodnight,” he said with a smile as he left the room and closed the squeaky door behind him.
“Tempur-Pedic beds?” She thought to herself, “How haunted can this place be if it has Tempur-Pedic beds? I bet that story about the shard was just something he told the guests that used to stay here to make them feel scared about this place. The paintings were probably added later on to give Lavalle’s insanity more realism. I’ll probably be on my way back home tomorrow night.”
Marcus Lamb, the master of Shadow Hills, often disappeared mysteriously during the following days. He usually was nowhere around while Amy was conducting her tests of the mansion. She thought it was a bit strange considering how most of her clients liked to see how she hunted for ghosts. Every morning, he’d knock on her door and greet her in the same worn out suit he met her in. At times, he seemed to be distant when talking with her during meals like he left his body temporarily and went out into space. Even stranger though, was the fact that he never once asked her how the preliminary investigation was going. It was like he didn’t even care.
When she put more thought into it, she realized Marcus never really made it clear why he hired her to begin with. She dismissed the question in her mind only because it would serve as a distraction. She spent three days straight taking photos of various rooms, using her EMF detector to get energy readings, walking around the darkest places with infrared thermal scanners, and every test came up with negative results. As much as she didn’t want to admit it, the story of the haunted mansion was turning out to be as bogus as Marcus’ story about Lavalle.
The very night Amy was about to call it quits and break the news to Marcus, something happened in her room that terrified her like nothing else. She concluded her hunt for the night and wanted to shower before telling him the mansion wasn’t haunted so she could head back home. She went into her bathroom with a small bag and ran the hot bath water. While the water was running she turned her back to the tub, set her bag on the counter where the sink was, and rummaged through it to find her MP3 player. When she reached over to shut the faucet off, a brief flash of light blinded her and disappeared. Her eyes adjusted a moment later and her bath water was crimson red. She dipped the tip of her finger into it only to realize that the tub had been filled with blood. Before she could react, a decayed corpse of a woman quickly sat up in the tub and grabbed her by the shoulders screaming like she was being murdered. Amy broke free of the woman’s grip and fell to the floor. She quickly got back up feeling her heart beating so quickly she thought it would explode in her chest, but when she gazed back at the tub, it was normal. The blood was gone and the woman vanished. Her mind kept playing the moment she gazed at the woman over and over until she realized that the corpse she saw was herself. After holding her hand over her heart for a moment, she calmed down and realized that she finally hit pay dirt.