When I think back, it really is strange how it all happened. December 29, 2003 my boyfriend Devon*, and I acted on a whim to welcome in the New Year in the mountains. We chose a little mountain town in Flora, British Colombia, an old jewel tucked away, waiting to be discovered. The landscape there is absolutely awe inspiring, life in its most undisturbed form, cradled by the reassuring Rockies. As soon as we entered the valley where the town was located, I felt that familiar magical feeling that I get whenever I’m near the powerful and magnetic mountains. In this particular town, however, there was something else; something odd that immediately gave me an eerie feeling of unease.
Spontaneity is fun but far from practical, as we soon found out. Although there seemed to be plenty of hotels, we could not find a room available for the night. We had no choice but to stay at the town’s posh mountain lodge, which was over our budget, but we reluctantly took it, hoping to find a more affordable room for the duration. We unloaded our bags into our disappointingly tiny room, and set out to revisit the one hotel that had advertised vacancy for the next few nights. Once we got there, the attendant apologized saying that the last rooms had just recently been booked… then the phone rang. The lady exchanged a few words on the phone and returned to us to say, “There must be something in the air. I just received a call from Mr.Doneson who has vacancy at the Dark Spruce Bed & Breakfast”. With relief, we eagerly sought out this B & B which was supposedly just a few minutes away.
For some odd reason, the place was more difficult to find then we expected and we drove around in circlesfor some time. By the time we arrived at the old, two-story house, dusk had fallen to dark. The house almost looked like a façade, as it seemed so out of place, nearly unreal. It was completely unlit. A brooding brick church towered out of the shadows to its right and a row of newer houses trailed to the left. The front porch was big enough to be a room in itself, (which I suspected it was at one time) and it wrapped widely around the side of the house leading to a second door.
The wood moaned and creaked loudly as we walked up the front steps. We approached an original looking large wooden door with an inset window. Before I could knock a second time, the door opened. Behind it stood a small, thin-framed, white-haired man. Although he came across as mild tempered, this man cracked no smile and harboured a cold, hollow stare; his eyes were unblinking and his gaze unflinching. There were no lights on, except for in the entrance where we were standing. He carefully introduced himself as “Hob” and stated the price of the room and its availability. I had a sudden flashback of Norman Bates and his seemingly normal motel. With no other options in town, we gave him payment for the next two days, without signing anything. We arranged a time to meet him the next day, very politely thanking him on the way out. All was settled, so we returned to our lodge to have a meal and sleep.
It was as if bad energy had followed us, because things took a turn early the next morning when I woke up with an intense head cold. Although we were planning to go snowboarding, my sore chest and bad cough forced me to opt out. I encouraged Devon to continue on with our plans, so he caught the early shuttle up to meet our friends at the hill later that day. After packing up and having a quick brunch, I went back to the B & B as previously arranged. As if he had been obsessively pacing in front of the front window, awaiting my arrival, Hob opened the door as I was walking up the front steps.
I was given a key and a brief tour of the main floor. The place had the smell of old maple and smoked bacon, which seemed to exude a cozy ambiance. The main floor featured twelve foot high ceilings, original dark hardwood floors and dark wood paneling halfway up the walls. A large dining area separated the impressively large kitchen from the open sitting area. Hob explained that the house was a heritage home, over one hundred years old, originally built for a very large man. Hob’s thin frame seemed dwarf-like in comparison to the great space created by the structure of the building. The interior was quaintly decorated with all sorts of antiques, tall book shelves, polished cabinets, and classic couches. Although Hob revealed that he and his wife occupied the entire basement, there was no sign of her. Several doors on this floor remained closed, with no explanation. Hob claimed that all guests were welcome to use the sitting area as they wished. He then escorted me back to the entrance and up a long staircase, with the steepest and widest steps I have ever seen. The stairs were covered in a blood-red, shaggy carpet, that impulsively brought, “The Shining” to mind. Every stair cried out a different sound as if to reveal some long forgotten secret.
“One would have to float to get around here unnoticed,” I thought to myself. I already felt compelled to tip toe around, fearful of disrupting the peace. There were two rooms upstairs, one of which was ours, along with a cramped sitting room in one corner, and a bathroom in the other. Our room had a twin size bed, a television, an antique chair, a small walk-in closet, and a window. Instead of the breathtaking view of the mountains, I was sorry to see that the only window faced the brick wall of the neighboring church. Finally, Before Hob left I asked if there was somewhere I could heat up my leftovers from the night before.
“None of our guests are allowed to use our kitchen.” He curtly replied, spinning around and vanishing before I could say another word. While I thought this was a little odd, I let it go and ate my lunch cold!
I finally had some time to relax, but first I went to take a shower. I decided it was safe enough to leave my bedroom door unlocked while in the washroom. When I got out of the shower I heard creaking floor outside the bathroom door followed by footsteps that quickly faded away. I returned to our room and found that my door was open a crack and the closet door stood wide open. I had a sick feeling that someone had been in there, but who?
As I killed time reading and writing I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was being watched by some ominous presence. I began to feel slightly uncomfortable, like I needed to be as quiet as possible. It didn’t matter where I was in the house, I couldn’t shake this unnerving sensation. Was it an evil spirit haunting me? Or did I pick up on some mysterious vibe that Hob was giving off? I couldn’t stay in this house any longer, so I got ready to visit the town.
I was starting to wonder if she really existed, but as I was heading out, I finally met Hob’s wife. Hob introduced her as Helsie. She was nearly the opposite from Hob with her round figure, olive skin, and long black hair. Her shifty eyes made me nervous. She seemed displeased by my presence and said “hello” in a very guarded manner. Hob said that we were welcome to park in the back, and that the back door was always unlocked until 6pm. This sounded more like a curfew to me, and added to the sense of being unwelcome I was beginning to develop.
I left for town but promptly returned because I had forgotten my wallet. I parked the car in the back, so that I could quickly run up to our room, but when I went to try the door it was locked. I thought this was strange. It was even stranger that nobody had shoveled the walks leading from the back to the front. I wasn’t about to walk through four feet of snow so I made the long trek around the tall brick church to the front of the house. I had barely put the key in the lock when the knob turned and there was hob in all his creeping glory. “He must have seen me park in the back,” I thought to myself, but he offered no explanation or apology. Why didn’t he open the door for me? What was with these people? I had to get out of there until Devon returned from the mountain.
Later that night Devon and I met our friends and went for supper. I related the experiences I had in the house but everyone laughed, saying I was paranoid, so I quickly dropped the subject. That night we came home at ten o clock, after our “hosts” had gone to sleep, so we were able to slip in unnoticed. Or so we thought.
The next morning I was up quite early unable to return to sleep. I had my morning shower and was getting dressed when there was an abrupt knock on our bedroom door. It was Hob, letting us know breakfast would be served in half an hour. Devon was exhausted from his snowboarding the day before so decided to skip breakfast. I continued with my morning routine and was almost ready when another knock came. When I opened the door there was nobody there. Chills made all hairs stand up but I shook them off and took another ten minutes to finish getting ready. As I opened the door, my heart skipped! I came face to face with Hob, fist raised, about to knock again. I pleasantly thanked him, but checked my watch. Was I really that late? No, there were still seven minutes until breakfast was due to be served. It was as if he was trying to undermine my privacy and responsible nature, and I was beginning to feel like we were staying with extremely strict parents–the kind of parents that hover and feel they have the right to nose around into business that isn’t necessarily their concern.
As I came downstairs, the smell of old maple and smoked bacon overwhelmed my senses. An older couple was already seated at the table. They had arrived the night before, and were staying in the room right next to ours. The couple was cheerful and talkative but ate very quickly, as they were catching the early shuttle up to the mountain. As I gratefully took a sip of revitalizing coffee, I inquired about the history of the house and the past owners. To my unease a grave silence followed. No one responded, instead Hob immediately changed the subject, directing his conversation toward the other couple. After the couple finished eating and left for the day, Hob began to clear off the table. I remained seated along with Helsie, who anxiously engaged me in conversation. In hindsight, it was almost as if I had been fed some truth serum. I found myself compulsively spilling my life story without reservation. To this day, I honestly don’t know what came over me, but I was feeling so comfortable. Before I knew it two hours had passed with her and I still sitting there. I felt that she had really warmed up to me and that we had connected on some level. With this new found connection forged, I thought that she should now appreciate my honesty and respectful personality.
Before I left the dining room Helsie had one more thing to say: “I thought I’d let you know… later last night, after you and Devon were in bed, we could hear you from the basement,” cautiously adding, “we can hear everything from the basement through the heat registers that run through the entire house.”
I was speechless! It was as if the core of my intimacy had been exposed to satisfy some twisted voyeuristic intent, without my knowledge. I felt sick to my stomach. The freshly-baked blueberry muffin I had so innocently enjoyed not so long ago was now a hard rock inside me; the coffee turned bitter. I quickly left the room to return to the security of the room where Devon slept.
That night was the long-awaited New Year’s Eve celebration. We were going out for a dinner and then entertainment by a live local funk band. We asked our “hosts” if it would be all right if our two friends came over to the house for an hour, while Devon and I got ready. Hob said that was fine. When our friends arrived, Hob told us we could all sit in our room. Once we were ready we had some time to kill, so we sat quietly talking and laughing. All of a sudden Hob flung open the door, without knocking. In a stern voice he claimed we were disturbing our neighbors and asked that we move down stairs to the main sitting area. We didn’t see a problem with this, so we brought our crib board downstairs.
No sooner had we set up our game, when Hob entered the room and propped himself in the far corner chair. It was as if we were being chaperoned. We tried to engage him in conversation, but Hob remained quiet for the most part, casting evil glares. Although my back had been turned toward him, his overbearing presence was starting to make me feel slightly queasy. One of our friends politely asked if there was a bathroom on this level. Hob jumped out of his seat and snapped back before she even finished her question, “No nonpaying guests are allowed to use our washrooms!”. Stunned by this unexpected outbreak, we sat in a moment of silence. This was the final straw to make us feel unwelcome. We abruptly ended our game and put our coats on to go. As if nothing was wrong with how they were acting, our “hosts” saw us to the door. I wished them a happy new year and looked at Helsie, but she shifted her eyes to the floor and said nothing.
After leaving, our friends apologized for doubting me before. We could not help but analyze the situation, coming to agree that there was something seriously wrong with these people and their bed and breakfast. Devon and I decided then that we would be leaving there first thing tomorrow.
As soon as the day dawned, Devon and I were up and packing to leave. We did not want to see our “hosts”, and could not bear another moment in this creepy place. As I brought the first load down, there was Hob calmly standing at the bottom of the stairs. “Oh! Are you and Devon going up to the hill today? He inquired.
“No, we are leaving.” I informed him. A fleeting look of irritation passed but was quickly masked by his vacant stare.
“Well, you’ll have to pay for tonight’s stay, as I had to turn down many customers because of you” He stated coldly, as he took an intimidating step toward me. I had nothing to say and I was certain this comment was completely untrue. Once the car was packed, we simply got in and never looked back.
It was a wonderful relief to be home after a long few days of what was supposed to be a relaxing break. The first night back, however, Devon awoke every hour for no apparent reason. The next night, it was my turn. I awoke startled out of a deep sleep, shivering in fear. There were no bad dreams trailing my thoughts, but something had aroused me. I sank down into the softness of my bed and cuddled close to Devon, but the fear only grew. Something was in my room. I was too terrified to move until the first crack of dawn peeked through the curtains. I got out of bed, with a mixture of relief and trepidation. With the lights switched on, I could shake off the darkness and any imagined disturbances as nothing more than nameless night terrors. As I made my slow descent down the stairs, however, I was consumed by the now all too familiar smell. The potent smell of old maple and smoked bacon…
* All names of persons and places have been changed to protect real identities and to deflect unwanted entities.