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The Ghost Hunter Chronicles - A Place of Nightmares Vol 1.

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Prologue

McKinley Wagner was scared. She was scared of the dark. But not of the dark outside, that lay over the sprawling hillside like a black velvet throw. She wasn't afraid of the dark shrouding down town in shadows. The only darkness she was afraid of was the darkness here, inside this house.
Unlike the friendly velvety darkness that hugged the hillside and town, the darkness inside Rosenthorne Manor was decidedly frightening. Unlike most seven year olds, McKinley knew there were no bogey men or poltergeists hiding in that dark. No monster lurked in the cupboards or under the beds.
The only monster roaming the hallways in the dark was, - her. During the day, Rosenthorne Manor was a place of light, and of laughter. The eighty some children housed there awaiting adoption ran giggling and chasing each other throughout it's wide halls. Skidding along the polished floors in their socks. Laying around the garden dreaming of a new family and a new life out there somewhere.
During the day the place was overseen by the Canningvales, Doug and Esther. A childless couple who took great pleasure in caring for the children left behind by that terrible war. Some had parents who didn't come home, some had been the soul survivors of the bombings in London. And some had been the outcome of a night of carousing with service men home on furlough. The young women tearfully giving up their children rather than shaming their families with their disgrace.

McKinley however, was here because her dear parents had been killed in an automobile accident. They had been out to a picnic in the country, it had been an idyllic day, mother and father laughing about little things. McKinley had been trying to catch butterflies with her net, and had blushed furiously when she caught daddy laughing at her.
They had left on dark, McKinley tired from her day of chasing went to sleep in the backseat. They were rounding a bend on a skinny little dirt road when a lorry traveling at high speed coming in the opposite direction side swiped them and sent McKinley's parent's car flying off the road into a big old oak tree. The little girl had been thrown to the floor on impact and survived. Her parents, not so lucky.

Now she was here, at Rosenthorne Manor, awaiting a new family. She hated it, she just wanted her old family back. So it was as she heard the clock in the hall strike twelve chimes at midnight, McKinley skittered into the girl's bathroom on the second floor and jammed herself into the linen cupboard there. She knew all about the lady in black. Mrs Tweed, they called her. McKinley thought of her as the black witch.
McKinley had totally lost her sleep pattern after the accident and had spent most of her nights wandering the halls of the Manor. One night she had seen her coming and all her instincts had screamed HIDE!
So she had hidden and past her had swept a woman in a long black dress and cloak with her hood up shrouding her face. McKinley had watched her go into the seven year old boy's room and bring out little Jimmy Oliver and carrying the still sleeping child to the stairs that lead to the attic.
"What?" McKinley had whispered to herself. She had to know what the hell that scary looking woman was doing with Jimmy. Jimmy was small and quiet, and everyone liked him. She crept out of her hiding place and over to the stairs. What she witnessed next defied description, and the terror filled scream that rent the air before she turned and ran haunted her for weeks. What was worse, no body else heard it, and when she inquired of Mrs Canningvale who was the night lady in black, Mrs Canningvale shook her head and said there was no one like that on her staff.

McKinley, not to be deterred starting asking other staff, and it was Mr Jackson the janitor who told her all about Mrs Tweed.
Mrs Tweed, Mr Jackson told her used to work here some twenty years before, she had a been a nurse. Back then Rosenthorne was a hospital, a hospital for people who had an illness in their brains.
She had signed up for work at the Orphanage when it changed hands, but rumor of cruel and twisted experiments she had been doing on the mentally ill, stayed any chance she had of working with children. However Mr Jackson had his suspicions that she still crept into the Manor at night and did things she shouldn't. He also told McKinley if she saw her to hide, and not make a sound.
When she asked why were the police not called he told her the woman could not be found. She was a shadow, a cipher and enigma wrapped up in a mystery. That's why you best be hiding, and don't come out until dawn.
Shaken, the little girl had taken the old janitor's words to heart. So every night before the clock struck twelve McKinley scuttled into one of twenty hiding spots she had dotted around the Manor. She even found a couple of hidden doorways, with little rooms no one used. She had bedding and other stuff stashed there.
Tonight however, she had fallen asleep and over slept her own deadline to be out of her assigned bed and hiding.

She had barely pulled the door shut and she heard her coming. The swish of her starched satin skirts as she walked the polished wooden hallways, the pervasive miasma that clung to the air whenever Mrs Tweed was abroad.
McKinley waited, squeezing her eyes shut, and was almost asleep when she heard the bathroom door squeak open and the swish of satin against tiles. Reminiscent of the sound a snake made gliding across desert sand.
Next the light clicked on. Oh no! McKinley thought, I'm trapped!

Next everything grew very silent, McKinley might have thought her foe had departed but, she could feel the menace of Mrs Tweed, she was standing just outside the cupboard. Just waiting for McKinley to get curious and open the door.
After what seemed like a decade, she heard a sigh, the swish of skirts and the light clicked off.
She was gone. McKinley counted to one hundred, she had to get out of the cupboard her legs were beginning to cramp.
She cautiously reached out and pushed the door open, the room was empty. Breathing a sigh of relief, she climbed out. No sooner had her feet hit the floor, she found herself being lifted up by her collar by rough hands with very long, sharp finger nails.
"Did you think you could hide from me forever? I know all the secret places too!" Mrs Tweed hissed in her ear.
McKinley kicked her legs and drew in a breath to scream but a hand was clamped over her mouth and she was carted kicking and struggling up to that Attic.
The dust covered room full of scary looking things was the last sight McKinley Wagner would ever see. And she peeled out scream after scream after scream, no one cam running, nobody even heard. The building slept on.

The next day when McKinley didn't turn up for breakfast a search was launched. All around the grounds. Every room, every nook and cranny. Even the deep woods surrounding the Manor were searched. After a week and no trace of the girl, it was decided she must have run away. Children seemed to always be running away from Rosenthorne.

It was almost a month later and little Tommy Ferguson was playing ball outside when something made him glance up at the tall front facade of the manor, as his eyes met the small window at the top of the attic he thought he saw something moving, something white.
He took three steps back ward, and swore he could see someone waving.
He ran to Mrs Canningvale asked if he could borrow her bird watching glasses. She was delighted he was taking an interest and handed them over. He ran back outside and pointed them toward to the window. When the vision swam into magnified relief in the glasses Tommy was shocked to the core. There, banging desperately against the glass were McKinley Wagner and Jimmy Oliver.

Tommy and fallen on his butt in shock and ran to tell the Canningvales. However a frantic search of the attic failed to reveal any trace of the missing children.
Tommy was sent to bed early, and the life went on inside the Manor. More children continued to disappear, and in the summer of 1959, Rosenthorne Manor was closed due to funding cuts.

And though closed it might have been, Rosenthorne Manor was far from empty.

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