William M. O’Brien Jr.
Shortly after John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry heralded the coming of the American Civil War, there lived in New Orleans a man named Felipe Poincare. He had inherited a large, three and a half story house on Ursaline Street in the area now known as the French Quarter. He was making a modest living taking in boarders when, one morning, he noticed, in the small fenced yard behind the house, a family of felines, a mother and five kittens.
Having heard complaints from more than one border of mice in the house, he began to feed these cats meat, milk and other scraps from his table. Soon, he had attracted two others, a large tom and a smaller one. The little group found shelter in empty wooden boxes around the door to the carriage house.
Soon, the mice disappeared, as did a number of rats that had been seen on fences and gates in the neighborhood. Poincare kept feeding the cats, until one day, the young daughter of a border ventured into the back lot and received a bite from one of the kittens. The bite was deep and required a doctor’s attention.
Of course, Poincare was distraught. He had been considering the mother of the girl for sexual advances and now he had received word that the woman and her daughter were moving.
Poincare quit feeding the cats, hoping to be rid of them in a few days. However, two weeks came and went and his former pets were still in the back lot. Furthermore, he noticed they were bringing in rats, birds and even fish scraps and eating them in the back lot. At night, the creatures would fight, scream, chase each other and disturb items in the back lot, making a racket that awoke the tenants.
His patience gone, he decided he wanted to kill them. He put out rat poison but they didn’t eat it. Frustrated, he resorted to an extreme: a case of two five-shot revolvers, loaded and capped. So, in the back lot, he shot them all, then burned their bodies in a brick lined pit. Finally, he was rid of them. Or was he?
Early one morning, a northern surveyor, thought by those around him to be a pre-Civil War spy, was awakened by a horrible racket in the downstairs dining room. Throwing his clothes on, he made his way down two flights of stairs to find, stretched out in a massive pool of blood, the headless body of Felipe Poincare. Other startled tenants formed behind him trying to see what was going on.
“What’s going on,” a woman behind asked.
“I don’t know,” the astonished Northerner answered. “This man is horribly dead.”
Looking about the room, he noticed an object
under a china cabinet across the room. Making his way the best he could around
the expanding bloody pool, he reached the cabinet, put his hand down for the
object and knocked it out from under the cabinet.
Immediately, he recoiled in horror. Lightly spinning in the gore just beneath the dining room table was a bloody skull, the skin completely eaten off, the eyes, nose, lips, and ears gone, most of the hair torn out. Now, all present recognized the torn up body before them as their innkeeper.
Eighteen months later, the American Civil War began at Ft. Sumter, Charleston Harbor, South Carolina. New Orleans braced for a possible invasion.
Two years later, the Union Navy, moored along the New Orleans levies, aimed at Port Gibson and Vicksburg, strongly in Confederate hands up river. Down from Illinois sailed more Union armed riverboats loaded with guns and infantry.
A young woman, who had accompanied her Union officer husband to New Orleans, was established in the Guest House while her mate was upriver before Vicksburg in an Infantry unit. One day she received news that he had been mortally wounded in one of the assaults on the Confederate eastern positions.
The news set the new owners of the Guest House to thinking that they might offer to take in wounded from the battles up river, but one morning, Wilmer Jarrod, the oldest member of the Jarrod clan that now owned the house, found that the young woman had hanged herself from a chandelier in her room. While removing her body, the police, along with Wilmer, noticed her nightgown had been slit and cut, as if by a knife.
“The poor thing has been punishing herself,” Jarrod informed his wife, after the body was removed.
Through the years people came and went, a few saying that they had noticed the sounds of a woman, faintly whimpering or crying, in the dead of night. In 1900, Willis Jarrod, now owner of the house, began hearing stories about ghostly visitations around New Orleans, and they began to come to the conclusion that they had one in their house, the oppressive spirit of a woman who had hanged herself. The news, bruited about town by the Jarrods, indeed, brought in the curious, and Willis himself, who had done more than anyone to spread the story, became somewhat of a celebrity.
In the spring of 1912, an older Willis sat in the front parlor reading a story about the sinking of the “unsinkable” luxury liner Titanic, when a guest, a visiting lawyer working in the New Orleans courts, came into the room complaining he had been kept awake the previous night by the sounds of a cat.
“We have no cats here, Sir,” Willis said, his astonished face looming above the lowered newspaper.
“You do have a cat here, Sir. I have seen it.” The man picked up his case and turned for the door. “Could you please do something about it.”
Later that morning, Willis searched throughout the man’s rooms for a cat but found no sign of one. He did, however, find a mouse in a wash basin by the bed.
He threw a hand towel over the creature and picked it up. “This must be what disturbed him last night,” he said to himself. “But it is a far cry from a cat.
Later, he told his wife about the incident.
“If there were a cat up there,” she said. “Wouldn’t it have caught that mouse? Either that or chased it away?”
“That would be reasonable, yes.”
Willis had never even seen a cat on his premises, or even in the street before it. There was literally no such animal anywhere around. At the end of the block there were two stray dogs that had been picked up by a catcher two days before. But no cats. Anywhere.
Years passed with here and there a tenant hearing strange noises, knocks in the night, and cat fights. But no cats ever appeared. The place must be haunted, the elderly Jarrods concluded, so in the early thirties, they sold the place and moved to a farm in Tennessee.
Gaylord J. Wilmont jumped at the chance to own a prime piece of New Orleans property, especially one that had a “reputation.” Infatuated with Marie Laveau and New Orleans voodoo and a constant explorer of cemeteries, he was only too glad to purchase a “haunted house.”
Of course, the Guest House would no longer be a boarding house, it would become a hotel, and he had the building remodeled as such.
World War II exploded across the world and the former Guest House soon filled up as a hotel.
Wilmont always advertised his hotel as having ghosts in it. For example, there was the woman who had hanged herself in the last century. There were other ghosts, too. Gaylord Wilmont guaranteed it. But, unfortunately for Wilmont, nothing ever happened.
People came and went, more than a few in uniform, but he had no report of even disturbed sleep.
“Maybe the damned war has something to do with this,” Wilmont muttered to himself one evening when his ledgers showed a drop in hotel customers. Any more, he would have to start letting his help go.
“Maybe you ought to invite some more ghosts,” a young marine veteran of Guadalcanal, wounded at Peleliu, supporting a Purple Heart and Bronze Star, offered. He sipped a beer and smiled amiably up at Gaylord Wilmont from a chair in the lobby.
He set out to cheer him up. “Hey, I’ve been hearing a few weird noises myself. Scratches in the walls and something that sounded like a cat, maybe that’s your ghosts.” The young veteran smiled again.
“Thank you, Gunnery Sergeant. I guess the ghosts are just gone for the duration.”
“That might be it,” the sergeant stated, sitting up and opening another beer. “This war has enough horrible things to offer besides anything at home. I’ve seen a few myself.”
The war ended in August of 1945 and Gaylord Wilmont’s business picked up. As post war time went on, more and more people were taking vacations. And more and more visitors to the Guest House were interested in its “reputation.”
Wilmont was ecstatic. He even thought about manufacturing a “ghost,” but his family talked him out of it. Even children had fun scaring each other in the halls of the hotel.
As time went on, he thought of other amenities for his hotel, perhaps a swimming pool, as the more noted and famous hotels had them. However, his was an “atmosphere” place, that shouldn’t need anything like that. Instead of a pool, he opened the old dining room for breakfast, and hired a cook.
This little move proved invaluable, as it kept his hotel filled. The cook he hired cooked only breakfast and then went on to another job, so Wilmont was not out that much money. So, by the late fifties, Gaylord Wilmont became more “well off” than he had ever been in his life. His wartime thoughts of selling the hotel and leaving finally left him and he began to look for other New Orleans real estate to buy.
So, in 1960, Wilmont bought a little restaurant on Decatur Street for a song. It had a good steady clientele, along with the out-of-towners that Gaylord loved, but, best of all, it was supposed to have a ghost.
Now, Gaylord was well set. Both his properties were doing quite well. At last, he could look for a nice house in the French Quarter where he could settle and think about retirement.
He bought his house, on St. Ann Street, and settled in but still kept his eye on real estate. In the late sixties, the house of Tennessee Williams came up for sale and he bid on it. He did not get it, but he began dreaming up a drifting celebrity settling for a while in his famous guest house, for example, maybe, William Faulkner.
These thoughts comforted him during a particularly cold New Orleans winter when he received a report from his manager in the guest house stating that a guest had fainted in the dining room, turning over a plate of pancakes and hitting her head on the door frame.
When he arrived at the guest house, the woman had been brought around and Gaylord’s wife was tamping her face with a wet rag.
The woman was crying and seemed somewhat in shock. “It was horrible, horrible, it…” she sobbed.
His wife looked up. “Gay,” she said. “She said she confronted a man in the dining room. A headless man.”
“Nonsense,” another guest standing near snorted. “She’s still drunk. She was drunk last night and has not as yet fully slept it off.” The man took another sip from his morning Bloody Mary. “She was drunk the other night as well.”
Gaylord’s wife helped the woman back to her room while Gaylord began to think. A headless man, he thought. A headless man, along with a hanged woman. Wait until that gets around.
Thus, Gaylord’s Guest House became a notable attraction of the New Orleans French Quarter by the seventies and remained so until the present day when Charlie Whipple and his wife Tricia, certified public accountants both, but amateur musicians, adventurers and ghost hunters extraordinaire, descended on New Orleans from points in the East. Neither had ever seen a ghost, but were determined to find one.
“God, it even smells haunted,” Tricia snorted, while Charlie filled out the guest card.
Terrence White, the current manager, watched the new guests sign in. “Haven’t had many reports lately, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be any in the near future.” He smiled at the Whipples. “Please make yourself at home. There are a number of excellent restaurants nearby, and we set breakfast on the side board at six.”
Tricia had changed to her shorts when she turned to the bathroom door to see the tail of a cat disappear around the bathroom door. Coming through the open door with a bucket of ice, Charlie saw it to.
“That was a creature,” Tricia exclaimed.
“That was a cat,” Charlie put the ice bucket down beside the unopened bottle of Chevis Regale. “That means we won’t be bothered by rats.”
“Damn, I hate rats.” She walked to the counter and watched her husband open the bottle.
“All these places around here have cats,” Charlie said. “They’ve got a big rat problem here, what with the river and all.”
“I want to catch it and pet it.” Tricia turned toward the hall door. “Fix me a drink, dear. I’m going to go see if I can catch that cat.”
She made her way into the hall and around a corner to a short hall with rooms on each side. At the end of this hall, she found an open door to the back stairwell. There, on the landing, she found the cat, its back to her. Silently, she tiptoed to the animal and reached out.
Before she could reach it, however, in a mechanical motion, it turned to her a face without eyes, its mouth, both incisor teeth shining, emitting a low, menacing growl.
Staring in horror, Tricia was overcome by a smell of putrefaction , so pungent she straightened up and bent over the stairwell, almost falling over it. She coughed heavily, had there been something in her stomach she would have thrown it up. When she looked back to the animal, it was gone.
“Sh…Shit,” she said under her breath, tears coming to her eyes.
Back at the room, she appeared in the doorway. “Th…Th…That animal was horrible,” she stammered. “Something happened to its eyes.”
“Its eyes?” Charlie turned to his wife in the doorway, a fresh-made drink in his hand.
“Yes, its eyes. They were gone.” She walked over to the counter. “And it stunk to high heaven. The damned thing made me sick.” She chunked ice into a glass and poured a drink. “The thing was sick or something.”
“Wonderful. A sick cat outside our room.” Charlie collapsed into an easy chair by a window. “Maybe we should report it to the desk.”
“I damned near puked.” Tricia sat down at the desk chair near her husband.
The Whipples had always loved running into odd and/or unusual things, but the episode with the cat had sickened Tricia so, she didn’t know what to do about it.
That evening, after three drinks apiece, on their way out to supper, they reported the episode to the desk.
“We don’t have any cats in the house,” the desk clerk said, surprised. “There may be one or two outside on the street, or out back. But as long as I’ve been here, there have been no cats.”
“This was a cat. We both saw it.” Charlie jammed his hands into his trousers. “My wife chased it and caught up to it. She said it had something wrong with it.”
“It must be something that got in from the back.” The clerk turned to the desk at back and wrote something on a pad. “I’ll have our bellman look into it as soon as he’s back. Third floor, you say?”
“Yes Sir. Room four.”
The Whipples were not aware until they got to their restaurant that they had been followed by three cats which quickly dispersed when they walked back toward them.
“What the hell is this,” Charlie stated. As it was already dark they did not pursue the animals.
Instead, they entered the restaurant bar and sat down for drinks.
“Well, are we cat magnets now?” Tricia asked after they had ordered two Hurricanes. Just a bit tipsy, she drummed her fingers on the table.
Charlie, better able to hold his liquor, looked around for the waiter with their drinks. “I don’t know. It just seems such an odd circumstance after what happened at the hotel.”
Later, after supper, they returned to the hotel. The desk clerk was waiting for them.
“Sir,” he said. “My night bellman and I checked the entire third floor for a cat. There was none.”
“Well, there was one there this afternoon.” Charlie took his wife’s hand as she was somewhat unsteady. “I guess, like you say, it was something that got in.”
Upstairs, they undressed and prepared for bed. Tricia opted to take a cold shower to “sober up a bit” before bed, while Charlie enjoyed a nightcap. Tricia, usually talkative in the shower, but silently drunk this evening, allowed Charlie to lean back in his chair and enjoy the evening.
He finished his drink and leaned forward to put his empty glass on a nearby table when he happened to look to his left toward a window looking out on a porch across the third floor.
In the window appeared the shadow of a cat, apparently sitting on its haunches and looking in. Charlie stared at the thing. If it were sitting on the porch, it would be six feet tall.
Mesmerized, Charlie stared. As he did, features began to appear on the cat’s face and shoulders. Eyes appeared, two solid white orbs staring straight at him.
“Charlie…Damn it. Shit, I’m drunk.”
The bathroom door flew open and Tricia appeared, her wrap around towel covering only one breast.
Charlie, startled, barked at his wife. “Trish, look at this!” He turned back to the window, but nothing was there.
Tricia, weaving, looked at the window also.
Charlie rose and quickly walked to the window. Then he unlocked the door and went out on the porch. He searched every foot of the porch and then, leaning over the rail, as much of the roof as he could see. But he found nothing; there was nothing there.
His wife appeared on the porch in the same demeanor she had been in when she appeared out of the shower.
“You better go in before someone chunks carnival beads at you,” he told her.
“Wha…What are you looking for, Charlie.” She looked at her husband and smiled the idiot grin she always had when she was drunk.
“A cat. A great, big cat. Sitting on this porch not two minutes ago.” His hand swept the porch area.
“An…Another cat.” She turned and made her way to the bed. “Let’s go to bed, Charlie.” She put on a holy nightgown and got into bed.
Charlie did the same, still thinking about what he had seen.
The next morning, the pair dressed to go down to breakfast.
“I think you saw something that wasn’t there last night, Charlie.”
She put an Advil into her mouth and swallowed it with a drink of water.
“You remember that?” He put on a shirt from the suitcase and began buttoning it. “I want to go to the French Market. It’s not far from here.”
“Good idea. I think we need to get away from these cats that don’t exist.”
If no mention was made of cats at breakfast, Charlie decided he would let it go. “Last night was probably a shadow or something,” he said to himself while pouring a third cup of coffee. All through breakfast he kept waiting for someone to mention cats. No one did.
They spent a pleasant day in the French Quarter and did not return to the Guest House until sundown. Charlie decided to ask at the desk about the ghosts in their hotel.
“Oh, yes,” the desk clerk from the evening before answered. “There was a Mrs. Reardon who hanged herself when she learned her husband had been killed in battle up the river. She’s been seen on the second floor in several places.
“There was also a headless man that was seen in the dining room right after the Second World War. There’s probably others, but none of them have put in an appearance lately.”
“Has anyone seen the Reardon ghost lately,” Charlie asked, leaning over the front desk.
“No, but people have heard stirrings in room three on the second floor. That’s where she supposedly did herself in.”
“I saw a weird shadow on the third floor porch last night.” Charlie started to mention a cat but checked himself when he remembered the exchange about cats the evening before.
“Oh, that might have been her,” the clerk said, grinning. “She’s been seen all over.”
Upstairs, Charlie made drinks for him and his wife. “That wasn’t any woman or headless man I saw last night. That was a gigantic cat.”
“You mean like a panther or something,” Tricia replied.
“No, not like a panther. This was something else.” He took a drink. “What would a panther be doing in downtown New Orleans?”
“Hey Charlie, we ought to go look for that ghost the guy downstairs told us about. You know. The woman who hanged herself.”
Tricia looked across the room at her husband, a large grin on her face. “It’s supposed to be on the second floor. Let’s go look.”
“We ought to go up to that place on Royal and have a few more drinks.”
“There’s nothing up there but drunks.” Tricia walked across the room and put her hands on Charlie’s shoulders. “Where’s your spirit of adventure. Let’s go see if we can find the hanged woman.”
The pair discussed going out to a bar and ghost hunting, but decided in the end to go to bed so they could get up early the next morning. After a couple more drinks they turned the window unit air conditioner up and slipped under the covers.
Charlie, sleepy after the drinks and a long day of walking and shopping went right to sleep; however, Tricia lay awake and stared at the ceiling. Lights from the street cast shadows above her that slowly took the form of animals. At first Tricia thought they were squirrels but they quickly got larger. She was trying to make out what they were becoming, but the effort put her in a deep sleep.
Charlie was having a dream about sleeping on the grass in Jackson Square, which he had visited the previous day, when he felt an animal of some sort chewing on his hair. He looked about the grass, at the people close by on benches or walking through the park, but he couldn’t see anything, but the creature still chewed on his hair.
He flailed away at the creature now on his head, but the effort woke him up. Immediately he sat up. An animal was indeed chewing on his hair, a cat, now sitting on his shoulder.
“Jesus Christ!” he exclaimed trying to knock it off, but the animal leaped free of him and ran under the bed.
His frantic movements woke his wife.
“What the hell, Charlie? Wha…”
“A damned cat chewing on my hair, for God’s sake.” He leaped out of bed and turned on the lamps nearest the bed. Then he fell to the floor and, moving cast off cover aside, looked under the bed.
Nothing. A solid wood base, most likely designed for tenants to keep from losing shoes and other things under the bed.
Crawling on hands and knees, he examined every inch of the base of the bed, but it was all the same. He knocked on the wood base with his fist, but he got nothing but the dull sound of solid wood.
“Shit! What the hell is going on?”
“Charlie, what’s going on?” Tricia exclaimed, now in the bathroom.
“That cat…That damned cat. It just vanished.” He got to his feet and began looking around the room. “I saw the damned thing run under the bed. I’m sure of it.” He drew his foot back and kicked the wood base. “This is solid wood. That animal must be around here someplace.”
“Was it the one I saw?”
“How the hell should I know!” He kicked the wood base again. “No cats, huh. Shit!”
“For God’s sake, Charlie.” Tricia stood in the bathroom door, straightening her nightgown around the shoulders. “Look at the clock. It’s two o’clock in the morning.”
Now Charlie calmed down. “I’d feel a lot better if I’d been awakened by drunks in the street. Not a damned animal that the management assures me doesn’t exist.”
Tricia crawled back in bed. “We’re supposed to go down to Canal Street tomorrow. That’s a long way from here.”
When Charlie got back in bed, Tricia reached up and ran her fingers through his hair.
“Chewing on your hair, huh.” She felt all around his head. “If something had been chewing on your hair, it would be damp. Your hair is dry as a bone. You just messed up your hair in the bed.”
“A damned cat was chewing on my hair,” Charlie enunciated every syllable. “I saw it.”
“Okay…Okay. Let’s go to sleep.”
The next morning the Whipples trekked down Royal Street to Canal. They caught a streetcar and rode it to a restaurant on St. Charles for lunch. Afterwards they took a little walk down St. Charles, then boarded the streetcar again and rode back to Canal, from which they made their way to the Carousel Bar in the Monteleone Hotel.
Over drinks, Charlie leaned across the table to Tricia. “That hotel is full of cats. They’re everywhere.”
“I’ve just seen that one, Charlie. And that poor thing was sick.”
Charlie took a drink. “No. No. They’re there, all right. And they’re getting in our room.”
“But why would they say there weren’t any if there’s so many of them?”
“I don’t know. Bad for business? I don’t know.” Charlie finished his drink and ordered another.
Evening was approaching when they left the bar and headed back up Royal to a small restaurant close to their hotel for supper. On the way, Charlie wondered about the cats.
Will they be in our room tonight he thought. Or do I try again to inform the desk about them. When I did that before, I got nowhere.
Tricia, on the other hand, loosened by the drinks, chattered on and on about wanting to spend an hour or two on Bourbon Street before going to bed. “Let’s go over there and get a Hurricane or two and then eat a late supper,” she said, giggling into her hand.
“You don’t need those strong drinks after what you had,” Charlie answered, irritated not so much by his wife as by his dilemma.
“Oh, come on. Just one.” Tricia stopped at an intersection. “One drink and then we’ll go eat. After that I want to try to find the hanging woman.”
“Oh, that again,” Charlie muttered to himself. “All right, one drink at Pat O’Brien’s and then we head for the hotel. I want to try that restaurant at the corner of Royal and Ursuline.”
Later, at the restaurant, Charlie, not fazed by his Hurricane, declared, “I’m going to talk to the desk clerk about those cats again. I’m sure he knows they’re there.”
“He’s…He’s not going to believe you, Charlie. Remember what he said before?” Tricia, giggling and slurring her words when she arrived at the restaurant, was a bit better off after eating her meal.
“Well, I’m going to try it anyway.”
Arriving at their hotel, Charlie was surprised to find no one at the front desk. He checked the parlor and the dining room, but no one was there either.
“I wonder where everyone is,” he said, scratching his head. “Odd, there’s always been someone here when we’ve come in before.”
He looked around again, even going back into the kitchen, but no one was to be found. “I guess everyone’s out tonight,” he said.
Leaning against the registration desk, Tricia belched. “Let’s go upstairs, Charlie. I think I’ve about had it for tonight. One…One more drink and I’m going to hit the hay.”
Charlie helped his wife up two flights of stairs to their room and then mixed two night caps. “There’s so many odd things going on here, Trish,” he said. “Cats out of nowhere and, now, where the hell is everybody?”
“Maybe the hanging woman has something to do with it.” Sitting up on the bed, Tricia looked over at her husband and grinned.
“I doubt that.” Charlie picked up his PJs and headed to the bathroom. “We’ll find out some things in the morning. Let’s go to bed.”
Lying in bed awake with his wife sound asleep, snoring, just beside him, Charlie glanced at the clock. “Just ten o’clock,” he whispered. “I guess that’s the reason after all. Everybody’s out.”
Three hours later, Charlie’s deep sleep was disturbed by a tremendous pressure on his right side. Thinking his wife had rolled over, he jerked himself to his left.
Even half asleep, he was overwhelmed by a stench that at first he could not identify. Coughing, he opened his eyes and beheld a sight of pure horror.
Within a foot from his face was that of a cat, its white, dead eyes staring straight at him. The face he looked into was the same size as his.
His first thought was that his wife, who was known to play practical jokes at odd times, had procured a mask from somewhere and now was trying to pull something on him.
“Damn it to hell,” he said, sleepily. “You’re still…”
Suddenly the face moved closer to his and
opened its mouth, two huge incisor teeth shining. Now the stench was overpowering.
Charlie turned over on his back to receive a weight on his chest. Another cat, much smaller than the first, had pounced on him.
Feeling pinned to the bed, he screamed. Something bite him on his right hand. Still another cat had its mouth closed on his hand.
“Let…Let me go, goddamnit.”
“Charlie, what’s…what’s going…”
Charlie looked over at his wife to see another cat trying to bite her neck.
“Trish,” he screamed. “Trish, for God’s sake. Oh, Jesus, wake up!!
A paw, bigger than his hand, rested on his chest just below his neck. Charlie began to feel pressure as the giant animal to his left began to press him downwards.
Tricia awoke completely and tried to sit up but the animal on her kept her down.
“Oh, Charlie, Oh, my God!” She turned her face toward her husband and screamed.
Now four smaller cats were on the bed, each one clawing its way toward its occupants. Charlie pulled a bloody hand away from the little monster to his right. But the giant to his left was now almost on top of him, its foul, dead face breathing putrefaction over him.
Summoning every bit of energy he could muster, Charlie rolled to his left and landed on the floor, his right hand throbbing.
Tricia, screaming and thrashing with both
arms, was trying to make her way to the edge of the bed. Five cats were on
the bed, three of them on her, ripping her flesh through her night gown. One
monster leaped at her face, but she blocked and flailed at it.
Charlie lunged at his wife and, grabbing her, jerked her toward the edge of the bed, but a huge paw, claws out, landed on his back, pushing him to the floor.
“Oh, my God, look at…” Tricia, screaming as loud as she could, did make it to the edge of the bed and fell on top of her husband.
Now, husband and wife, both bleeding, saw their chance. With what little energy they had left, they jumped to their feet and headed to the door, not daring to look back at what they both knew would be chasing them.
They flew down the stairs, both almost falling. When they hit the ground floor in the lobby off the dining room, husband and wife both slipped and fell on a wet and flowing substance on the floor.
“Oh, Jesus, this is blood,” Tricia screamed.
Charlie looked down at his clothes and then all around him to see a large, swelling pool of blood emanating from the dining room. He turned and looked into the dining room to see, between the large table and the front window, a man, staggering, without a head.
“Oh, no! No!” Charlie screamed and grabbed his wife.
Lifting her to her feet and clutching her to him he plunged forward through the front door to land on the porch and roll down the front steps onto the sidewalk.
There, the couple lay on their backs, looking up, to see three people, two men and a woman, standing over them. All three had drinks, but one man had handed his drink to the woman, and now had a gun in his hand. His other hand quickly produced a wallet with a badge.
“Police. Houston Texas,” he said. “What’s going on here?”
“We…We…” Charlie, out of breath and at a loss for words turned toward the door of the Guest House. He was close enough to see a clean floor across the lobby floor. “We…We had a little accident on the stairs inside.”
Charlie and Tricia both looked down at their clothes which should have been soaked in blood. They weren’t. They were just bleeding from cuts and a few bruises each.
The man who had identified himself as a policeman looked over both Charlie and Tricia as they got to their feet. He put his weapon up. “You two look like you’ve been in a fight.”
“We tripped on the stairs,” Charlie said. “Both of us.” He looked over his wife whose nightgown had several slits and some blood on the front of it. “I think we’re going to be all right,now.”
“Are you drunk?” the woman asked.
“Kinda,” Charlie answered.
In the meantime, the desk clerk had appeared on the porch and asked if everything was all right.
“Yes,” Charlie answered. “We tripped on the stairs but we’re all right. We’re going back up to our room now. With that the Whipples made their way back through the door and up to their room, where they packed immediately and checked out of the Guest House, never to return.
They had seen their ghosts, but they were not what they had expected. The Whipples could not abide angry, long-dead cats grown monstrous in death. As so often happens in New Orleans, a tragic cruel incident, long forgotten and buried in time, had manifested itself in the present day in a horrific way.