Short Take: “The House on Abigail Lane,” Kealan Patrick Burke

Rating: 5 out of 5

Kealan Patrick Burke’s horror/paranormal novella The House on Abigail Lane is written like a set of research notes or journals regarding the strange events associated with number 56 Abigail Lane. First, of course, there are the disappearances. Sometimes people head up to the second floor and just never come back. It took people a while to realize there was a pattern, because nobody really looked into the disappearance of one of the construction workers. Of course there are other strange happenings besides the disappearances. Some folks see odd things inside the house. Someone tried to burn the place down, and the only damage was smoke damage on the outside of the house. Once, for a short time, dozens of dogs and cats sat on the lawn facing the house, then left as mysteriously as they’d arrived. As for the things people have seen in the house, well, those vary wildly. A ten-foot clown. A lighthouse with a beach down below. A field of sunflowers. A giant “god.” For years so-called paranormal investigators tried to crack the secrets of the place, until one person labeled it “a calamity of physics.” Of course when the story reaches the 2000s, the house goes viral.

Even though some of the events are fairly innocuous, and others could be explained as PTSD, hallucinations, people running away, and so on, it quickly becomes clear that there are patterns at work. But the house endures through it all–police, ghost hunters, researchers–and keeps its secrets close to the vest.

My one worry was that, like many haunted house stories, this would have a weak ending. When you have a cipher as big and as seemingly unchangeable as “a house,” good and meaningful endings can be hard to come by. There’s one set of events that really delves into some of the madness and, while not tying every string together, gives a few ideas away. And the story of course neatly sets up the possibility of something more happening in the future (I’d love to read that follow-on!).

One thing that makes this a little hard to get into is the fact that there is no real protagonist other than the house, and it’s fairly reticent. There’s little violence, so what there is has impact. I really enjoyed this little tale.

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