The Tontitown Spectre

It was a cheery night in Fayetteville, laughter and carols drifting through the air.  I nonchalantly chatted with my friends, warming my hands on a hot chocolate.  We were just one of many groups milling about the town square, taking in the holiday cheer.  Colorful lights twinkled around and above us, wrapped around tree trunks and nailed to the sides of the old brick buildings.  Someone had spent a lot of time on this display, and I very much appreciated their efforts!  As I smiled for the token light photo of the year, I would never have imagined this night would soon turn spooky.

After indulging in some seasonal cocktails at the local popup bar, Ethan and I said goodbye to our friends.  Our home for the weekend was a quaint little rental cottage in Tontitown, painted pastel and recently renovated.  We’d driven up to Northwest Arkansas for a house-hunting weekend, and my two dogs had come along for the ride.

The cottage had two bedrooms & two bathrooms, but there was just two of us.  Not intending to use the second bedroom, we shut the door so the dogs wouldn’t go in and make a mess.  We each claimed a bathroom and got a full shower to ourselves, which was decadent!  My bathroom had a walk-in closet and its own wall heater.  I turned the heat on full blast so the room became a makeshift sauna.  

I emerged from my warm little paradise and huddled up on the couch with my dog Tchai.  Moments later, Ethan emerged.

“Where’s Niko?” he asked.  

Niko is my Australian kelpie, and one of the most affectionate dogs I’ve ever met.  It was unusual that he wasn’t lying next to me on the couch, since he normally wants constant attention.

“Niko!” I called.  There was no response.  

“Is he outside?”  Ethan went to the door to look in the yard while I walked into the bedroom.  The dog was nowhere to be found.

Then Ethan opened the door to the second bedroom.  There was Niko, sitting in the room and facing a corner.  When the door opened, he turned toward us and walked out.

“How did he get in there?” I wondered.  That door had been shut ever since we first walked in.  Surely he didn’t open it and then close himself in again.  Oh well.  I shrugged it off.

Sometime during the night, I woke up to use the bathroom.  I shuffled across the room like a zombie, half awake.  While I was sitting on the toilet, suddenly the light in the walk-in closet began to flicker.  Off and on, off and on. 

In my groggy state of mind, I thought one of the dogs must be lying on a wire.  Without checking the closet, I shuffled back to bed and fell asleep again.

Later, I awoke to a loud bang.  Ethan leapt out of bed and yelled, “HEY!”  He squatted and hopped around like a gorilla, which I guess is his instinctive defensive stance.  It was still dark, so I turned on the light by the bedside. 

The room was empty.  The two dogs had their ears back and tails between their legs, clearly frightened by Ethan’s gorilla mode.  

My mind flashed to the closet light that had been flickering earlier. “Check the closet,” I said to Ethan.

He did, but it was empty. He searched then searched the rest of the house, while the “guard dogs” sat on the bed.  Meanwhile, I located what had fallen and made the noise: a decorative metal leaf sculpture that had been hanging on the wall.  It was unclear why it had fallen, but we decided not to put it back on the wall in case it fell again.  We turned the lights off and climbed back in bed.

“I don’t like this place,” said Ethan.

We fell silent and I tried to fall back asleep.  A couple minutes went by before I heard a strange noise.  The best way I can describe it is a female moaning, crossed with a high-pitched whirring of construction machinery.  It wasn’t loud, but was obviously coming from within the room.  I felt goosebumps crawl up my arms.

I nudged Ethan.  “Do you hear that?” I whispered.

Apparently he was also still awake, because he immediately responded yes.

“Do you think it’s the fan?” I asked.

“The fan’s been on all night and it hasn’t made any noise,” he responded.

The noise continued and I listened for a few moments before asking, “do you think this place is haunted?”

“Absolutely,” he said.

We lay stiffly in bed listening, until the noise abruptly stopped.  I looked at the fan and noted it was still moving at the same speed that it had been, yet not making noise.  I wondered if it could be a neighbor playing a trick on us.  Eventually I fell back asleep.

As charming as that cottage was, it was a relief to leave the next morning.  It was a newer building, and as such a surprising spot for a haunting.  I mulled over whether to tell the owners what we’d experienced.  I gave them a 5-star rating, then sent over a note asking if anyone had reported strange occurences in the past.  To date, they haven’t responded.

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