By CLINT FOSTER
His voice took me by complete surprise. I had never heard him speak and the message behind his words conveyed a warning of something sinister. I quickly sat up in my bed, my hopeful eyes fighting to adjust to the dark of my empty room. I was expecting to see him standing there; to see the familiar face, the mouth which uttered those words. However nothing but blackness of night occupied where he had once stood. He was gone, but the feeling he had imparted through his chosen words, the threat, still lingered. ‘There are seven of us...’ Seven? My heart dropped into my stomach. What had I done?”– Haley B. Cunningham, “The One You Hear at Night”
Halloween may be over, but any ghost-story enthusiast will tell you that the paranormal has no season. Citizens of Mineral Wells are well acquainted with ghost stories, especially considering the Baker Hotel’s famous legacy as being haunted in certain circles. But one Mineral Wells native says she has seen, first-hand, the reality of a haunted house. For seven years she put pen to paper, researching her experiences, and now her magnum opus is published – a book called “The One You Hear at Night.”
Haley B. Cunningham, a 26-year-old journalism student at the University of North Texas, grew up in Mineral Wells. When she was 15, her family moved into a house on N.W. 6th Street that they would soon discover was anything but ordinary. It was not long before Cunningham found herself experiencing multiple instances of other-worldly activity.
Eventually, Cunningham said, things started happening to her entire family, leading them to move out.
“Being a stupid teenager, I started using a Ouija Board and, thus, let in some pretty powerful spirits that still stay in the house,” she told the Index. “After we moved out, stuff escalated pretty quickly. It’s almost like my life is a movie.”
After they left, the next owners only stayed six months, leaving the house abandoned for four years. Since then, a Dallas owner has bought the house to rent it out, but Cunningham said he has struggled to keep tenants. The landlord has since reached out to Cunningham, who conducted a paranormal investigation at her former home at his behest.
She said one family left the landlord a note saying: “We can’t take it anymore. We left you our dishwasher.”
Even since she has left the home, Cunningham said aberrations have followed her.
“It’s hard to explain,” she said. “If there’s a spirit somewhere and I go to that place, something is probably going to happen to me. I don’t know if something has followed me from that house – which I think is actually highly likely – or if every single place I’ve moved to has had some type of weird thing happen. What are the odds of that?”
Cunningham’s ghost story begins with a spirit she said is named Tom – the original spirit in the house on N.W. 6th. She described Tom as a “friendly” ghost who “just wanted us to know he was there.” This same spirit was the one who first told Cunningham that there were seven ghosts in the house, as she referenced in her book.
According to Cunningham, Tom has even gone so far as to save her life; one of many stories she recounts in her work of non-fiction. On a cold, December night when she was 15, Cunningham had a fight with her mother and stormed out of the house, intent on running away. She just started walking and, before she knew it, she found herself in a bad part of town.
Two men in a car began following her, pulling up next to her periodically before falling behind her again.
“I was just looking for a place to run and hide, anything at this point,” she said. “They pulled up next to me and I heard one say, ‘I don’t know, dude. Do you think we should?’ and the other guy said, ‘No, let’s just go.
That other guy is with her now.’ I just stopped, because I was alone. They drove off really quickly and yelled, ‘Hey, get rid of blondie. We’ll show you a good time.’ I later found out that Tom was blonde. I didn’t see him there, but I guess they saw him there.”
After this experience, Cunningham said she became obsessive about communicating with the dead and bought a Ouija Board. But Cunningham said her use of what many consider to be a toy opened a portal that she regrets to this day.
“I started using the board more and more and I started using it improperly,” she said. “That was probably the biggest mistake I’ve ever made.”
In one instance, she was using the board with some relatives and they began talking to one of the seven spirits, named Tiffany. She warned them to “be quiet” and that “he is here.” At that point, Cunningham – a self-proclaimed agnostic – said a demonic presence entered the room.
“You could actually feel the air just turn evil,” she recalled.
This spirit, whom Cunningham said the board called “Steven,” attacked her step-sister, pushing her against a door frame and leaving three six-inch, cat-like scratches on her arm. Cunningham said she later discovered that paranormal research commonly associates such scratches with demons.
Cunningham said she saw Steven multiple other times. In another instance, she said Steven chased her down the stairs.
In an attempt to reverse what had happened, she burned the Ouija Board. But she explained that only made matters worse. She later found out, because she never closed the portal, she inevitably sealed off all seven spirits from ever leaving the house.
As a student at Perrin High School, her many spooky stories earned her the nickname “the ghost girl.” After she graduated, she decided the world needed to hear what happened in that house and she began work on her book, going through an exhaustive process of fact-checking, research, journaling and watching videos and listening to tapes of her experiences in the house.
She said she wants people to believe the stories of her experiences that both terrify and fascinate her.
“I had way too many things that happened to me to not get this story out,” she said. “I really want people to read this and not call [it] BS. I want them to know that this actually happened to me and it can happen to you. I have so many sleepless nights under my belt because of this thing. I’m not going to write it unless it’s 100-percent thorough.”
“The One You Hear at Night” is currently for sale on Cunningham’s website and at the coffee shop she works at in Denton. She hopes to have it on Amazon.com and on bookstore shelves soon. On her website, Cunningham details many aspects of her investigation, has excerpts from the book, electronic-voice-phenomena recordings of the ghosts and a teaser video for her work. To find out more, visit www.haley-b.com.
“It’s so fascinating,” she said. “I find myself itching to use the board now and then, because I know that will give an answer. But I just know the consequences. People just don’t understand that this stuff is real. As fascinating and fun as it may be to be spooked every now and then, stuff can follow you and it will change your life.”