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I like your web site! Here is a story, (true,) about a
place I lived in during college. I wrote the
following a few years later, and thought you might
like it.

Take care and keep up the good work.

-Bill Sweeney


The House on Capitol

Oh those days of college... wild, fun, stressful,
always something going on. In the
small college town of Ellensburg, Washington, it
seemed like you knew everyone and
everyone knew you.

Like most people attending college, some of my friends
lived in dorms, some in
apartments. Two of my friends, Chris and Charles,
lived in a KOA camp site until
the icy winds of late fall pushed the winter gray into
the valley, and them into an
elderly couple’s basement apartment. As for myself
and my roommate Mitch, we
lived at XXX East Capitol Street, an old and not so
well kept-up house built around
the time of the great depression. It was here at the
“Capitol house,” as my friends
and I coined it, that late one winter night I would
start a conversation with someone I
mistakenly thought was my roommate, but quickly
realized that it wasn’t Mitch,
wasn’t really alive, but was still, unfortunately, a
roommate just the same.

In the house next to ours lived Ed. Ed was a nice
guy, generally jovial. Each
evening he would bring home a curiously large
briefcase and joke with us saying,
“just bringing home my work.” Not a strange thing to
hear normally, however it was
soon pointed out to us by the neighbor on the other
side that Ed was the town
mortician. Living with Ed was Rip. Brown hair,
usually covered with burrs, and
chronic bad breath, Rip, or “rest in peace” as we
sometimes called him, was Ed’s
three year old Golden Retriever. Rip was never
without energy or enthusiasm when
a ball or Frisbee was begging to be tossed. In fact
he was the friendliest, most
happy-go-lucky dog that ever bounded droolingly
through the lawns of the old
homes that lined most of Capitol street. Yep, Rip was
the friendliest, the friendliest
dog around, [with only one exception]

Late one afternoon, as clouds slowly floated across
the late fall sky periodically
interrupting what little heat the sun was still
willing to offer, Rip galloped over to our
house to welcome us home from school. [and to divulge
a dark unfamiliar side, his
one exception.] Usually when Rip greeted one or both
of us it was on the front lawn
with a ball in his mouth, and we would happily agree
to his request and toss the drool
ridden ball for awhile. But that day Mitch and I had
been in classes all day. We
were hungry and there was leftover spaghetti, our
mainstay, in the fridge calling our
names. “Come on in Rip,” we called inviting the
mortician’s dog into our house,
thinking that we will treat him to a little of our
Ragu style spaghetti. Mitch and I
walked through the living room and into the kitchen,
throwing open the refrigerator
door that kept us from the large plastic bowl
containing what our stomachs screamed
for. A moment later, looking behind us we noticed we
had lost a dog, but hearing a
strange sound coming from the living room, we realized
we had gained a growl.

Emanating from Rip, was a low threatening growl, that
made the hair on our necks
stand on end. “What’s he growling at?” Mitch asked in
a low threatened voice of his
own. I looked in the direction where Rip’s eyes were
pointing — right into the unlit
hallway that led to Mitch’s bedroom and the bathroom.
Both doors were closed,
there was nothing we could see. Just three walls, two
of which were doors, and the
large metal grate on the floor that used to suck cold
air into an old furnace in the
basement. Rip then let out a barrage of fierce blood
curdling barks that made us
think someone or something was coming at us in full
attack. I stood still, my eyes
glued to the spot that seemed to threaten Rip’s being.
Mitch suddenly jumped and
or flew — I was never really sure — across the living
room and out the front door. I
presumed to show Rip the way out. Either way, after a
moment Rip backed out the
same door, still barking. [I never did bother to ask
what Mitch’s reasons were for
running out of the house.] Rip never again would
enter our house.

It was Friday night, about a month after the “Rip”
incident. Some friends came over
to the Capitol house for pizza, then we all planned to
go downtown to meet the rest
of the university at one of Ellensburg’s pubs. Rick,
a friend that was in the same
design program that I was, walked nervously up to me
in the kitchen and told me
that from his chair in the living room, he could see
an elderly man standing in my
bedroom. “Real funny joke Rick,” I said, and turned
my attention back to the oven
pulling out the next pizza. He grabbed my arm, almost
knocking the pizza out of my
hand. I turned my head, “There’s someone in your
room,” he said. And this time I
knew wasn’t kidding. I walked quickly, not knowing
what was going on, by Rick’s
girlfriend Pam. She was still sitting in the chair
they had shared a moment before. I
passed the wood stove that now heated the old house,
and went through the open
door of my bedroom. I saw nothing. Nothing out of
the ordinary that is — just my
bed, my lamp, a dresser with some books on it, some
laundry that should of been
done a week before — but no old man, no ghosts,
nobody. Rick and Pam both
swore they saw someone standing in my room that night.
Like Rip, Pam never again
would enter our house.

As time went on, the days grew shorter, the skies grew
darker, snow and stillness
covered the valley. Things still happened around the
house on Capitol street —
sounds, things going bump in the night — but no
sightings, no dogs barking madly at
empty hallways, nothing too out of the ordinary. For
awhile anyway.

Winter quarter finals week was finally upon us. And
as usual for a finals week, the
graphic’s lab at school was filled with design
students, myself included, putting the
finishing touches on one of many projects that was
expected to be handed in the
following day. It seemed that the entire design
department was up that night, some
at computers, some assembling projects, others
wandering the halls of the building,
trying to find their third or fourth wind to carry
them into the small hours of the
morning. I was lucky, I was almost done with my work,
and it was only 11:30. If I
hurried I could be home by midnight. Rick, and Erin,
another friend from our
department, were also almost done. As I was cleaning
up Rick suggested that we
go out for a bite to eat after we finish. That
sounded good, after all I hadn’t eaten
since around 4:00 that afternoon. We agreed that if
he and Erin weren’t too much
later than 12:30 they would come by my house and pick
me up.

It was a quiet ride home as I made my way through the
small town streets — the
snow falling, muffling the sound of the wheels of my
car. As I pulled into my
driveway, the headlights exposed the cold, dark house
on Capitol street that I called
home. When I entered the house I felt the cold, and
noticed that the wood stove
had burned down low. Mitch must of forgotten to stoke
it before he had gone to
bed. After stoking the wood stove, the first waves of
heat started to chase the cold
out of the room. 12:35 — no Rick or Erin. They
obviously weren’t as close to
being finished as I thought they were. I decided to
go to bed.

I swung open the door to my room, and there I stood
frozen by what I saw, unable
to move a muscle. “How long had it been since I
cleaned this dump?” I said to
myself. Books, papers and art supplies on my bed —
bike parts, laundry, ski
equipment strewn on the floor — during finals week
sometimes things are left
undone, but this was ridiculous. I grabbed a blanket
and a pillow off the bed, and
headed to couch where it was warmer and cleaner.

I leaned over and pulled the chain on the lamp.
Darkness quickly ensued, then
retreated slightly pushed back by the light from the
street lamps outside. I laid on my
back, half propped up by pillows, making a mental list
of things needing to be done
the following morning. I heard Mitch walk out of the
hallway, and into the living
room. I turned around, saw him and said “Hey Mitch,
what’s going on?” I could tell
that I startled him by the way he swung around. He’s
stood there, staring at me. I
wondered why he wasn’t saying anything — surely I
didn’t scare him that badly. It
was then that I realized that this guy was too tall to
be Mitch. I looked into the
person’s eyes and it hit me like a ton of bricks, the
entity had no eyes, just dark
holes where his eyes should have been. His body
wasn’t a distinguishable mass, but
an oddly glowing, white dense cloud, in the shape of a
body. I couldn’t take my
eyes off his, or where his eyes should have been. And
that’s how we stayed, for
fifteen, maybe twenty seconds — just staring at each
other until I heard a voice in my
head that said “Well slick, you’re stuck eye to eye
with a ghost, what are you going
to do now?” I could give no answer.

I could feel inside myself that the ghost really had
no answer either. I could feel that
I had startled him, and I knew that he had no more
intentions of being spied, than I
had of spying him. The fright that filled me moments
ago had left, and was replaced
with a feeling of mercy. Mercy or pity, I didn’t
know, but what I did know was that
neither one of us wanted to spend another moment of
this cold wintry night looking
at one another any longer. I slowly turned away,
breaking the eye contact we had
shared — for what must have been by then — almost
thirty seconds. A moment
later, I heard footsteps going back into the hallway
which two months earlier, Rip
had so viciously attacked with his growl and bark.
And still, I laid there on the
couch, half propped up by pillows, again wondering
what my next move should be,
and what this whole episode meant, if anything.
Suddenly, there was light all over
the living room, washing the walls like a blazing
torch. I leapt from the couch as if
someone jabbed me with an electrical prod. Rick
really needed to have the
headlights on his old Ford truck adjusted.

After telling Rick and Erin what had happened, Rick’s
face clearly stated, “I told you
so.” We decided to skip the all night diner, and
headed to a place called The Tav
instead. When The Tav closed, Rick asked if I wanted
to stay at his place for the
night. “No thanks,” I said, “no sense in running from
the inevitable.” So we drove
slowly and silently through the small town streets to
that old house on Capitol street.
I got out — they wished me luck — and into the house I
went. It was late, and I
was tired. “Okay, here’s the deal,” I said to the
empty hall leading to Mitch’s room,
“I don’t mind you living here, and no offense, but I
don’t want to ever see you again,
okay?” Silence... “Okay, I guess that’s that,” I
said to myself.

As I laid back down on the couch I thought maybe that
was the best deal I could
have made. After all, housing in Ellensburg was very
tight, and I’m sure neither one
of us wanted to live at the KOA.

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