|Written by JA Campbell / Artwork by Marge Simon
|Brown and the House of Horrors
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1901
“You must be Elliott and Brown.” A woman smelling of ink and paper and cats said as she walked up next to us.
“I’ve read so much about your exploits. Thank you for coming.”
“Our pleasure,” Elliott, my human, said.
We stood in a line outside a building Elliott told me was a house of horrors, and it was supposed to contain a
ghost. If they had a ghost problem, I was the dog for the job.
The cobbles were warm under the pads of my feet, and I sniffed the air, wondering if I could smell the ghost from
outside. So far, nothing.
She shook Elliott’s hand and put her hand down for me to sniff before she scratched my ears. “I’m Clair. She really
hunts ghosts with you?”
“I couldn’t do it without her,” Elliott said.
“Excellent. Well, as I said in my letter, these folks claim to have a ghost in their house of horrors. They scare people
with it. It would be harmless except that people’s things go missing sometimes. Wallets, jewelry, the like. The
owners, two brothers, blame it on the ghost of course.”
“So you want us to prove there is no ghost?” Elliott asked.
“Essentially. That will allow me to write a story exposing the fraud and hopefully keep people from getting taken
Elliott cleared his throat, smelling uncomfortable, and glanced at me. I wagged my tail. Once we had tricked people
with ghosts too, but not anymore. Now we hunted real ghosts.
“Let’s go in then.”
Clair walked next to us as we finally got inside. Sometimes people didn’t like dogs, but no one seemed to mind or
notice as I followed close to Elliott.
Peppy music played as a man with a booming voice, similar to the one Elliott used to use when introducing us to a
crowd, told us about the horrors within. Mummies, the hall of mirrors, demons, witches, and ghosts. The last was
what had drawn most people to the show, a real, captive ghost.
A group of us were directed to walk down a hallway. Inside people oohed and aahed, and whimpered, and smelled
Personally, I couldn’t understand what they were reacting too. Elliott and Clair merely smelled curious as they
looked at things in glass cases. The light was low, and the glass kept me from smelling what was inside, so I kept
my nose alert for ghost scent and ignored the rest.
Shortly we walked from the dark room into a more brightly lit hallway. Mirrors reflected humans and Border Collies
everywhere, and I whined, disorientated. A woman exclaimed as she bounced off of a mirror and something
laughed, low and menacing.
“You think you are brave enough to see a real ghost?” it said, laughing again. “If you can make it through the
mirrors, we’ll see.”
Sniffing, I looked around for signs of a ghost, but I only smelled people.
People frantically tried to find their way through the mirrors and even Elliott and Clair seemed to be having
problems. Someone started crying.
Huffing in annoyance, I closed my eyes to slits and applied my nose to the task. Woofing softly to get Elliott’s
attention, I sniffed out the route through the mirrors. Before long others noticed and began to follow, until we
reached a door.
“Good job, Brown.” Elliott scratched my ears, and I wagged my tail.
The door opened. I didn’t see or smell anyone, but I heard gears click and grind. A few people pushed through
ahead of us, and we followed into a dimly lit circular room. Someone had drawn a circle on the floor in the center,
and the light seemed to focus just outside that circle so the inside was still dark.
“Gather around, ladies and gentleman, gather ‘round. Soon you will see Mazick, our ghost.” A man who smelled
similar to the one who had introduced the house of horrors walked into the room. “But, who is this?” He pointed at
People turned and looked in my direction.
“Could it be, the famous Ghost Hunting dog we’ve all heard so much about recently? What brings you to our
humble show? Why, the ghost of course. Now, Brown, no hunting this ghost. He’s quite contained. Or, is he…?”
Some people exclaimed, and I wondered how the man knew who I was. Elliott shifted uncomfortably.
I still didn’t smell any hint of the ghost.
The lights dimmed more.
“A few words from me, and our ghostly friend will appear.” The man held his hands up and chanted. Smoke drifted
up from the floor and began to swirl, just like a ghost.
My hackles rose.
As the smoke formed into a ghost, I growled.
The ghost spun and swirled and my growl deepened. I knew the man didn’t want me trapping his ghost, but if it
came anywhere near me, I wouldn’t hold back.
“Brown,” Elliott said softly. Strangely, he didn’t sound or smell concerned.
Smell…something was weird about the smell.
“Brown,” he said more loudly.
Glancing up at him, I quieted when he tapped the side of his nose.
There was no ghost smell, what Elliott called musty ozone. I stifled my growl and stared at the ghost more closely.
It didn’t have a smell, and, though it moved around in the center of the room, it didn’t move like the other ghosts
“See, folks, even our ghost hunting dog is convinced,” the man boomed.
At his voice, the ghost wavered a little.
I woofed quietly, intending to disagree. We were supposed to expose the fraud after all.
Elliott whistled very softly between his teeth. I glanced at him, and he made a hand gesture I hadn’t seen in a long
time. It was the signal for “play along.” Basically, he wanted me to pretend it was a real ghost. I almost disobeyed,
but I smelled a hint of fear from him, and it wasn’t because of the ghost.
Dropping into a crouch, I stared at the ghost and growled harder, doing my best to pretend to use my Eye to trap
the fake ghost, like I did with real ghosts.
“Good girl,” Elliott whispered so softly I could barely hear. I wondered why he wanted me to play along.
Clair, the reporter, gave Elliott a confused look and, out of the corner of my eye, I saw him grab her arm when she
tried to protest.
“Well, folks, it’s time to put the ghost to rest for a time. Brown, would you like to do the honors? Just push it back
to the center.”
Uncertain, I glanced up at Elliott. He gave me the “play along” hand sign, so I stalked forward, and the ghost moved
back. I could hear a fan clicking, probably what made the smoke swirl, and some other gears turn and grind. They
were all very quiet though, and I doubted a human would hear unless they were very close. Stopping when the
ghost stopped, I glanced back at Elliott again. He patted his leg and I ran back to his side.
“Well done, Brown. Well done,” the man said.
Elliott scratched my ears, but I could smell his unease.
We filtered out with the crowd, though it looked like the announcer wanted to get our attention.
Elliott sighed in relief when we were finally back out on the cobbled street, but he didn’t stop, pulling on Clair’s arm
until we were well away from the house of horrors.
“Why didn’t you let Brown expose them?” she demanded once Elliott finally stopped.
“I think I recognize those two. They’re dangerous. I was afraid they’d do something drastic rather than let their
little secret get out. We will expose them, but we need to come up with a good plan.”
“Dangerous? They’re charlatans.”
“This isn’t their first hoax, Clair. I wouldn’t mind if it was their last, but I’d rather not get me and Brown killed in the
process. Come on, let’s get dinner and make a plan. Then we’ll expose those two for who they really are.”
~ * ~
Our plan to expose the fraud involved me and Elliott sneaking around the house of horrors after it had closed and
figuring out a good way to expose the false ghost. Clair would try to get a detective to listen to her and go with
her to the show. There we could expose the thefts, and the fake ghost, and arrest the brothers all at the same
time. Elliott was afraid they would escape before they could be caught, otherwise.
Following close to Elliott, we snuck through the dark alley next to the house of horrors. Clair would meet us later to
find out what we had learned.
I kept my ears and nose alert for trouble, but it seemed we were alone.
We paused by a door in the alley and Elliott put his ear against it for a moment before trying the knob.
“Locked,” Elliott muttered. He fiddled for a moment before the door clicked softly and opened.
“Stay right with me.”
I bumped against his leg to let him know I understood.
With just enough light to see by, we crept through the dark building until we made it to the ghost chamber. The
chamber was empty but someone had left the lights on. Elliott paused and listened. Glancing at me for a moment,
he went into the room when I didn’t object.
“It looks like they have a track in the ground. The lighting and the paint hides it pretty well. The ghost comes up
here.” Elliott knelt. “Ahh, small holes for the smoke and a small door that opens when the smoke is thick enough.
“We’re glad you think so, Mr. Gyles. Or may I call you Elliott?”
Throwing my head up, I looked around frantically. I hadn’t heard anyone approach.
Elliott scrambled to his feet and backed toward the door to the mirror room.
“Stanton? Or is it Casey, I never could keep you two straight.”
“You’ve heard of us? I’m honored,” the voice said.
“Quite the scam you have here,” Elliott said.
Elliott continued to back toward the door.
“I’m sure you can appreciate that.”
“Outright theft is not something I have ever appreciated. The show is one thing…picking pockets is quite another.”
“Semantics.” A door opened and the announcer from earlier entered the ghost room.
Elliott reached behind himself and opened the mirror room door. We backed through, shutting it behind us.
“I wonder where the other one is,” Elliott muttered.
A laughing voice boomed around us. I recognized it as the other voice from the show earlier.
“Elliott, you can run, but we will capture you and that dog of yours,” the echoing voice said. “The mirrors aren’t
easy to navigate.”
The lights came on, blinding me for a moment. Elliott swore. “It was easier to see with the lights off,” he muttered.
“Brown, lead the way.”
Closing my eyes to slits, I used my nose to track the path out of the confusing maze. We were only a few twists
from the end when we heard the distinct click of a gun being made ready to fire.
Elliott froze and I stayed by his side.
“Keep your hands where I can see them.” It was the man who had run the ghost part of the show. “Stanton isn’t
too fond of guns and killing people. Fortunately, I don’t have any problem with it.”
Elliott let go of my scruff and held his hands out to the side.
Growling, I turned to face the man who threatened Elliott, ready to spring.
~ * ~
Elliott paced around the small room they’d thrown us into after roughly searching him. I’d been ready to defend
Elliott, but he’d called me off. Now we were trapped in a small room, and whatever Elliott had done to open the last
door didn’t seem to work on this one. He’d tried.
“It’s been hours, Brown. Hopefully Clair has realized something went wrong.” He stopped pacing and sat down on
the floor next to me. Trying to comfort him, I put my muzzle on his leg. He scratched my ears before getting up to
start pacing again.
“I guess it’s a good thing they didn’t kill me outright.”
The brothers had debated about killing Elliott, but they thought they might like to use me in their show, and
doubted I’d cooperate without Elliott. They were right.
Elliott paused, tilting his head as if he were listening to something. I cocked my ears and listened too. The music for
the show now played in the background. I was surprised he had noticed it before me. Of course, I’d been about to
slip into a grand dream of sheep herding.
“It must be later than I thought,” Elliott said. “I hope Clair was able to get the police involved.”
Huffing, I flattened my ears and let my eyes drift shut again, only to be woken again by a quiet knock.
Elliott went over to the door. I perked my ears to listen.
“Oh, good. I managed to slip away. We have to figure out a way to get the door open.”
“I can kick it open,” Elliott said. “But I didn’t want to make that much noise until I was sure we were alone. I didn’t
want to get shot.”
“Everyone is occupied by the show. I managed to slip away. Get out, we have to prove the show is a fraud and try
and catch them stealing things from people. I convinced a plain clothes officer to help out.”
“Excellent. Okay, stand back.”
Elliott leaned back and kicked out at the door. I flinched when it loudly cracked. Elliott pushed it open and Clair
waited for us outside.
“I was so worried when you didn’t come back.”
Elliott smiled. “I was a little worried too. Thank you.”
“Do you know a back way to the ghost room? They should be getting close.” Clair spared a moment to scratch me
on the ears.
“Maybe. Brown, keep your ears open for trouble.”
I woofed softly.
We crept through the hallways, having to duck into an empty room at one point to avoid detection. Elliott
backtracked several times, but finally we stood outside a familiar door.
“This should be it.”
“Excellent.” Clair put her ear against the door and listened. “I think they are inside.”
She opened the door a crack and looked through. “Everyone is inside,” she whispered. “I see my friend. How do we
expose the ghost?” She quietly shut the door.
“I have a plan. Brown, this is what I want you to do.” Elliott knelt next to me and gave me some instructions.
Clair opened the door again and I slipped through, followed closely by Elliott and Clair.
No one seemed to notice us, all staring raptly at the ghost. Unlike when we were last at the show, this time I saw
one of the brothers, the first one who had spoken to us, moving amongst the crowd. He was stealing things from
people, and he was the one I was supposed to disrupt while Elliott foiled the ghost.
Sneaking through the crowd, I got as close as I could and waited. The brother slipped his hand into a man’s pocket
and came out with a wallet.
Barking an alert, I startled him and he paused, just long enough for me to grab his arm while he still held the wallet.
The man turned when I growled. “Hey, that’s mine!” He snatched his wallet back, and I let go of the brother’s arm.
“What is going on here?”
That got other people’s attention.
They turned and a few patted pockets and some exclaimed about missing items.
Another man came up to investigate. He smelled of gun oil and I thought he might be the police officer.
“I think you’d better keep your hands where I can see them,” he told the brother and held something out.
The brother tried to run, but I darted in behind his legs and tripped him. The police officer hauled him to his feet
and put handcuffs on him.
“Ladies and Gentlemen,” Elliott said from the middle of the room. “You now see part of the fraud, but here is the
other. This ghost is not a real ghost.”
The crowd gasped.
Elliott explained how the ghost worked, while I slipped through the crowd, looking for the other brother. We had to
catch both of them.
Again, I heard the distinct click of a gun being made ready to fire. I followed the sound and my nose until I saw the
brother pointing a gun at Elliott from behind a pillar.
Snarling, I jumped at him, knocking the gun and the brother to the ground. I clamped my mouth on the brother’s
arm and snarled.
His eyes widened in fear and he stayed still until another police officer, this one in uniform, came over.
“That’s enough, dog.” The officer didn’t sound certain I’d obey, but I was happy to let him take over and released
the brother’s arm. Looking around for Elliott, I ran to his side as soon as I found him.
Soon both brothers were in custody, and an angry crowd reclaimed their stolen valuables.
“Good girl, Brown.” Elliott hugged me.
“This is going to be a great story!” Clair said when she came up to us. “Can I get some quotes from you two?”
Elliott sighed and glanced at me, grinning. “I’m sure Brown can come up with something good for your article.”
Clair frowned and Elliott laughed. Woofing softly, I licked Elliott’s face. I’d defeated the ghost, even if it wasn’t a real
ghost, and I was happy. Elliott was safe and Clair would get her story. All in a day’s work for a ghost hunting dog.
When Julie is not writing she’s often out riding horses, or working
sheep with her dogs. She lives in Colorado with her three cats, Kira
and Bran, her border collies, her Traveler-in training, Triska, and her
Irish Sailor. She is the author of many Vampire and Ghost-Hunting
Dog stories the Tales of the Travelers series, and many other young
adult books. She’s a member of the Horror Writers Association and
the Dog Writers of America Association and the editor for Story
Emporium fiction magazine.
Find out more at http://www.writerjacampbell.com