Written by MB Wolfe | Published by Alien Buddha Press, 2022 | The Alien Buddha’s House of Horrors #5

Juniper Row fell dead at the doorstep of its crown jewel, number 100. Exquisite and imposing, the Queen Anne Victorian had been its silent sentinel for almost a century and a half. It must have quite the set of teeth to have survived Los Angeles this long, I thought eyeing its weathered white paint and darkened windows. The city surrounding it was blood thirsty, destroying historic houses by the thousands only to erect cookie-cutter condos atop their broken corpses. And yet it stood defiant, its will to live humming within its walls. In that alone, I felt a connection. We were sisters in survival, this house and I.

I came to her seeking refuge, bearing bruises from a relationship that ended with closed fist caresses meant to remind me of his savage love. All I had to offer was the few hundred dollars stuffed into my jeans’ pockets and the tattered remains of my life tossed into the trash bags stacked inside my SUV. In her shadow, though, all that was forgotten. I was transfixed. How had I never realized that I always wanted to live in a house just like this? No, not like this one; exactly this one. It was as if a thread of spider’s silk had always been there, extending beyond my navel, anchoring me here. And it was as if something within those walls began to yank on that thread with enough desperation that if I didn’t answer, I might come unraveled. So, I began to wander up that walkway, over cracks choking on weeds and dead leaves begging to be raked, past the faded “Room for Rent” sign, across the porch that moaned beneath each step, and knocked on the door.

The widow Sybil Everly-Young answered. Bent and shuffling, she ushered me into the parlor, the room itself reading like a love letter to the nineteenth century. As I eased onto the camelback sofa, the air surrounding me became lighter, as if the walls themselves exhaled in relief. I ran my hand across the blush-colored velvet with an inexplainable familiarity, my soul finding comfort in the supple fabric beneath my fingers. With a pained groan, the widow sagged into her parlor chair and asked if I had come about the room for rent. 

“Yes,” I said, captivated by the room around me.

The portrait that hung above the marble fireplace captured my gaze. Framed in embellished gold, she sat poised in a high-back chair, the very picture of Victorian restraint and decorum. She was beautiful, draped in silk the color of summer daffodils with pearls at her throat and tucked into her red hair. Her eyes left me breathless. In those wild and spirited sapphires, I saw myself, a blazing fire that refused to be snuffed out. We shared a connection, the woman in the portrait and me. I didn’t know how, but I just knew, the answer taunting me from the tip of my tongue, knowing I would never find the words to name it.

“The original lady of the house.” The widow gestured toward the painting with her cane, the head of an ornate brass bird peeking between her gnarled fingers, “My great-great grandmother Elise Everly.”

“She was beautiful.”

“A tragedy, she was. Shot dead right there.” She now gestured toward an empty side table cloaked in lace that stood at the base of a window. “By her husband Bennet Everly. He was mad, war sick after what he’d seen in the Civil War. Hallucinated that night, took her for a Yankee solider if you can imagine! But, after he killed her, he lost his last bit of sanity. Died of a broken heart nearly a year later, they say.”

Leaning forward I rested my clasped hands on my knees and studied the spot where she died. The story seemed so familiar that I wondered if I had come across it somewhere. Maybe in one of the podcasts I followed about the morbid history of L.A.?

“Any house as old as this is bound to have some history,” I said. History and true crime were both kind of my thing and I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to find a place so rich with both. 

She inclined her head, “So how did you find us?”

“By complete accident. I was driving around looking for rentals and just wound up on your doorstep.”

A smile spread across her cragged face. “Well then, perhaps this is fate.”


I couldn’t stop thinking about the untimely death of Elise Everly as I lay in bed that first night beneath the widow’s roof. Closing my eyes, I could feel faint echoes of the bullet as it bit into her heart and the confusion she felt as she crumpled to her knees. I could see Bennet, cast in moonlight as it streamed through the window, his features twisted in horror as he realized what he’d done. How he howled with an agony known only by the feral creatures haunting the night as they wished for their humanity. At least, that’s how I imagined it. The widow had it right though; it was a tragedy. And somehow it felt so personal.

After whispered sympathies, I fell into a fitful sleep that didn’t linger. Plucked from dreamlessness and steeped in sweat, I found myself wide awake, as if at the beckon of some invisible force. I combed through the black, my eyes finding only the strangeness of a new place littered with my partially unpacked belongings. I reached for my phone and checked the time. Three a.m. With a sigh I slid it back onto the nightstand and kicked off the covers, savoring the cool air against my body. Knowing I had to open the coffee shop in a few hours, I rolled onto my side and forced my eyes shut. If I didn’t get enough sleep, class that afternoon was going to be unbearable.

“Ada,” came a breathy whisper just beyond my closed bedroom door.

Wait, did I just hear my name? My eyes popped open. Holding my breath I listened, straining to hear over my heart’s surging rhythm. Only silence followed. Okay, I’m hearing things, I decided with an exhale. It was just the house settling; that’s all. At thirty-two, I was too old to be spooked by an old house…even if people died here. Besides, the dead are harmless. It’s the living you have to worry about. I closed my eyes again, this time with a huff.


Now I sat straight up, a colorful arrangement of expletives escaping my lips. What was going on? Was the widow calling me? My gaze landed on the heavy pine door that led into the hall. Through the crack at the floor, I could see a faint white light dancing just on the other side. I watched in confusion as it shimmered in place and then drifted toward the stairs, the floorboards creaking in its wake as if underfoot. Footsteps? I knew arthritis had robbed the widow of her ability to climb stairs. The second parlor on the first floor had been converted into her bedroom. So, who was up here walking around?

I yanked my phone off its charger and slid out of bed. Punching on the phone’s flashlight, I gripped the doorknob and yanked it open.

“Who’s up here?” I demanded, stepping into the hallway. I spun in place, shining the light in every direction sending shadows skittering across the walls. Nothing. I padded toward the stairs. “You’ve got some balls breaking in here. I’ve got a big gun,” I bluffed, pausing at the landing.

Ada,” the voice beckoned, now from the gathered darkness at the foot of the stairs.

“Ms. Sybil?” I began my descent, my heart lodged in my throat. Did she fall out of bed and need my help? My damp palm squeaked along the banister as I carefully took each step accompanied by the fleshy thunk of my feet across polished wood. When I reached the first floor, I stepped into the doorway of her room and peeked inside. There she slept, tucked into in her hospital bed oblivious as the dead, the soft whir of her CPAP filling the silence.

Ada,” the voice then sighed with a rush of cold that brushed across my ear, tender as a lover’s graze. With a startled gasp I spun around, coming face-to-face with a translucent woman, her eyes wide with terror. With tattooed skin the color of honey, she was dressed only in a faded HorrorPops T-shirt and underwear, haloed by wild black curls.

“Son of a…ha!” I sputtered, choking on nervous laughter. It was me; I was the ghoul reflected in the grandfather clock’s glass.

Then I noticed a soft yellow light flickering along the parquetry floor as if gesturing for me to enter the main parlor. I swallowed my nerves and moved toward it, needing to know what was waiting for me. I could feel it again, that tugging on my spider silk string. Whatever this was, it was the reason I was here. I don’t think I could have resisted it even if I wanted to.

Once I crossed the threshold an icy gust coiled around me, its energy palpable. It churned with excitement then anger then sorrow and back again, leaving me disoriented and numb to my own emotions. Shivering against its ghostly embrace, I was guided forward. As my feet landed in the spot where Elise Everly died, the energy around me dissipated. I found myself before the side table that once stood empty. Now a single white taper candle burned from its surface, the golden flame reveling in my presence. In front was an open bottle of wine and two crystal wine glasses, scarlet nectar filling one.

As I looked at them, I couldn’t help but marvel at how beautiful they were. So intricate, each with a tangle of grapes and vines engraved along a flute that rested on a faceted stem. An heirloom, clearly, but why did they look so familiar? Unable to resist, I reached out and swept my fingers along the surface. Images suddenly flooded my mind, as vivid as if I were there. It began slowly at first; Elise and Bennet on their wedding day, sipping from those very wine glasses. The memory lingered there, longer than the ones that came after, as if begging me to remember. When the veil remained drawn across my eyes, Elise’s life began to unfold before me in flashes.

An affluent childhood in New Orleans, the youngest of five daughters. An engagement to her first fiancé, broken after his sudden death. The languid courtship and eventual marriage to Bennet Everly, a born-wealthy Civil War colonel, twenty-three years her senior. Taking a train west to a new life in California, far from the horrors of war and death that haunted her new husband. A three-story manor built for her on Juniper Row. The birth of her two children Eli and Ira, five years apart, and the joy she felt when she held them. Finally, her death; struck down by a bullet on a sleepless night at 3 a.m., a final gift from a husband lost to a war heavy trance.

I stumbled backwards, my fingers slipping from the glass. The pain, her pain, was so overwhelming I was drowning in it. Clawing at my throat, I felt as if I were suffocating in the dirt that filled her grave. My eyes lolled back, and the veil lifted. The anguish wasn’t hers, but mine. Mine! I was Elise Everly back from the dead! My knees buckled beneath the weight of it, the floor rushing to greet me. Down I went, crashing onto my hands and knees, landing in a pool of blood. Her blood? My blood? Trembling I raised my crimson-stained hands and gaped at them, a whimper rising from my throat.

A strong set of hands seized me by my elbows and drew me to my feet. The air returned, and I could breathe again, the blood gone. Blinking back tears, I saw him, just as he was in my timeworn memories. Dressed in somber black, stood Bennet Everly, a bear of a man, his face lined and handsome, a grin forming behind his graying beard.

“It’s you.” Stunned, it was all I could say. He was the one who had been calling to me. His hands were wrapped in my spider silk.

“Welcome home, Ellie.” He clasped me by my shoulders, his hazel eyes boring into mine, past my current body, and into my soul. Hearing that affectionate nickname, so long forgotten, I melted into him. Until that moment I never realized how homesick I was for the warm rumble of his voice. In his arms I became both Ada Greene and Elise Everly, one life blurring into the other.

“How? How did you know, Ben?”

“I suppose we are connected, your soul and mine. I felt it when you came near and could see you, my wife, in there.” He tapped my forehead with his meaty index finger. “Here, sit.” He led me over to the sofa and sat me down. “I know this is a lot of take in but let us drink to your homecoming!” 

He retrieved the glass of wine, placed it in my hand, and settled beside me. Of course, he would remember how much I loved wine. I sipped at the silky liquid, notes of cherry and vanilla drifting across my tongue, the scent of almond tickling my nose. I looked around the parlor with now familiar eyes. It was mostly unchanged from the way I left it in 1891. My gaze then landed on the portrait over the fireplace. It wasn’t there before. With a sharp inhale and dampening eyes, I was overcome with a sadness and longing for who I once was. I now understood why the amnesia that came with rebirth was so sweet.

“I moved it there after…,” he said, following my gaze. “I wanted everyone who entered to see you.”

I offered him a weak smile and cleared my throat. “Why did you stay here, my love? I waited for you on the other side.” 

“I couldn’t leave our home, Ellie.” The softness in his tone ebbed, making way for something harsher. Eager not to sour our reunion, I regarded him with caution, choosing to gulp down my wine instead of responding. He could be quick-tempered and rough, his moods changing on a dime. Clearly, even death had not changed that. “I searched for you, certain I would find you after death, but you were nowhere to be found. How could you leave? The children? Our home? Me?”

Unable to hold back at his chiding, I sat up straighter and narrowed my eyes at him, “Bennet Clinton Everly, you shot me. Right here, in this very house! How dare you blame me for crossing over when you killed me!”

His face darkened and he rose to his feet. “Don’t you remember what we promised?” I shook my head, my cheeks flushed with anger. “Well, I remember like it was yesterday. You were in my arms, wine drunk and giddy as a schoolgirl. ‘I want to stay here forever,’ you said, and I teasingly asked, ‘Forever? What about our mansion that’s waiting for us along that street of gold in heaven?’ And you laughed. Do you remember what you said next? ‘This is heaven.’ I will never forget that, the way you said it so contented and happy. In that moment I felt whole for the first time within memory. I remember thinking that you were the one thing I got right and that no matter what happened, as long as I had you everything would sort itself out. So, we made a pact to spend eternity here together, haunting the generations of our children and their children’s children so that they would tell ghost stories about us. It may have been all fun and games to you, but I took it to heart. So, yes, I may have killed you, but the way I see it, you were the one to break your promise.”

I lowered my gaze. With the amnesia gone, his words pulled the forgotten memory from the fog like a ghost ship, “I do remember…now,” I said, my breath wavering. Was this all because of me and a faded memory? The man I loved lost to time and unable to heal by crossing over because he was waiting for me here? 

“Now you remember,” he said, the words twisting like barbed wire in his mouth. “After you left me and everything I built for you by moving on to some other life! This was to be our eternity and you left it to me, to rot in madness! As what? Revenge? I didn’t mean to hurt you!”

My pulse quickened. “Ben! It wasn’t like that….” Gasping in pain, I clutched my head as a sudden and violent pounding filled my skull. My blood roared in my ears, and dizziness began to overtake me.

With a sigh, Bennet eased back onto the sofa next to me, his voice serene, “That’s okay, my dear. Fate brought you back to me so we can make this right.”

“Wh-what did y-y-o-u do?” I sputtered slumping into his lap, my empty glass clattering to the floor. Furious and desperate my heart hammered inside my chest, my body screaming with a banshee’s fury. Death was coming. 

“Cyanide,” he murmured, running his fingers through my damp hair, “Don’t worry. It will be over soon.”

I tried to shrink away from his touch but was too weak, “Why?” I wheezed, foam spewing from my lips. I fought to take in air, but my lungs clenched shut.

“So you can make good on your promise, Ellie. We belong here. Together. For eternity, just like you said. After all, this is what you wanted.”