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Ghostly "Help, my Dad's on fire!"

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Welcome aboard, climb in and ride along with me and experience this incident through my eyes. You can never predict when the strange and unusual occur. Neither private person nor police officers are insulated from the truly bizarre and strange. It just springs on you like rain showers on a perfectly beautiful day of sunshine. It was English born writer Charles Dickens who introduced the world to the strange oddity of spontaneous combustion in a novel he wrote in 1852, calling it the "Bleak House," but I had never experienced anything like it ever before. Truth be told, I do not think I am that good at reading old-time-classical books. I used to read many comic books and was always fascinated by superpowers but I still enjoyed reading novels of literary significance and than those of make believe. I read books from authors such as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Leon Uris, Alvin Toffler, and others but never old classics such as Charles Dickens or Nathan Hawthorne.

House fires can be the worst emergency calls in my opinion because you just never know what to expect until you get there especially if they are occupied. One evening, hours after the sun settled on this old city; the dispatchers receive a call that would be one of the strangest sights I would ever experience. It all began with a call to “911” with a little boy reporting his father was on fire. When the words blast over onboard radios numbers of on-duty patrol cars leave their assigned calls moving full steam ahead to the location before even the fire fighters are shaken from sleep and on the move.

Heavy lumbering fire trucks moaning under the strain of thousands of pounds of water and equipment come to life. You could hear the huge Detroit diesels scream in protest as their big engines groan and scream, their sirens wailing from more than one direction as the unwieldy fire trucks whine and pull away from their parking slots. Though firefighters may disagree, it is with indisputable certainty police officers are the preeminent first responders to arrive at any fire scene most of the time first. If they do, however, they understand they may be forced to take action without the benefit of training and safety protection.

I know this from experience and it nearly cost me my life. Fear of death is the most deep-seated and universal of all fears; entering burning homes or dealing with fires scarred the daylights out of me, always did. Nevertheless, I have much respect and admiration for the firefighters and maintained long friendships with these people even in retirement.

Nonetheless, most will react over the need of their own personal safety to save another if the urgency of the matter demands. It was exactly what I thinking as I rolling toward the address. It was on Father’s Day a few years prior to this particular call when I came upon a home fully engulfed in flames, I thought to myselffully braced for the worst. Memories like that somehow never really leave you, it just lies dormant someplace.

I was thinking … My old lieutenant must have been following me around that day because he pulled up before I could radio for the fire department. I called for fire and the old lieutenant and I made a decision right there to enter the home alone and without benefit fire retardant clothes and respirators. It was the day before he was set to retire and I told him, “If you go in there Lieutenant, I’m going with you,” and the decision was made and we entered the burning home. We found a resident in the basement and I carried him over my back with my old Lieutenant pushing me and brought him out to safety. I awoke a short time later vomiting with an oxygen mask and firefighters all around.

That seemed like a long time ago, and I was getting close to the house where the man is on fire expecting no less than another house in full flames.

Anyways back to the story, I was only the third police car to arrive on scene that night fully expecting to see the dark sky fully lit with a house on fire. It is said, a city man knows his frontyard, but a police officer knows the neighborhood. I was familiar with the neighborhood and the tinderbox homes in that subdivision were small and old, maybe constructed of wood nearly 100 years ago. Aged wood with probably very little code updates can make for an intense and sometimes deadly house fire.

By the time I got there, a few police cars were already there waiting. I noticed two police units parked in haphazard fashion blocking the street and one of the officers were standing on the cement steps outside the front door as I pulled up. Keys jingling and my door slams shut as I make my way off the street. I rubbed my chin with the back of my hand, "No fire, no smoke?" I asked myself. There were no flames, no odors of smoke that I could detect. I made my way off the street and stormed across the grass to the front steps. There were some more police cars arriving and a fire truck rounding the corner down the block, I knew this because I could hear the diesel engines and oscillating or strobe lights flashing in the sky before you actually see them.

A brisk cool breeze stirred up as I stepped up the tiny wood porch. I still felt uneasy about something but I couldn’t quite put my finger just yet. It was a sagging porch, not a lot of room for more than two or three adults. I greeted two police officers just as a second squad member storms outside. I paused, and dryly asked, “How’s it going in there guys … What do you have?” They glanced at me, and then turned their attention back over their shoulder, muttering something unintelligible as their eyes darting back and forth. Their heads down low they nervously brush past me in a hurry to get off the porch heading for their cars and decide to stay there. They make themselves useful and move their cars off the street to allow the fire trucks and rescue vehicles clear access to the house. Nothing rude and nasty or hostile in their response but something inside clearly bothered them.

I could read the weary look on his face and it stayed with me. I continued to the front door standing wide open and peered inside the completely lit house. The doorway led straight into the living room. Facing me to the front was a little kitchen. I stepped inside the front door and paused when I noticed no fire or anyone else there to greet me. In fact, there was no excitement, no screaming, no “I’m sorry officer for calling but everything is fine,” no activity just silence... Just complete silence.

It appeared to be a small sparsely furnished house. Well this is strange I thought to myself. Door wide open, no fire, nobody home, two of our officers practically run me over to get out of the house without returning. The air seemed to crackle with tension. Somebody called about a fire or believed it be on fire but where’s the fire? "Who called?" I waved off the questions and continued on with my business.

Still standing just inside the doorway, I scanned the clean but sparsely furnished living room and quickly probing the dim confines of the house. My eyes drifted to the ceiling for some reason and there above the walls ringing the entire room was a black sooty ring outline where the walls join the ceiling. I have never seen anything like it before in my whole career. In addition to the somewhat strange anomaly, I get another jolt. My thoughts drift back to that old familiar feeling, a childhood memory. I was just eleven years when I confronted a home intruder with a jumbo size squirt bottle of Ivory liquid one night while mom and dad were away working. Sure I was sacred, but even as a little boy it was about survival and I was protecting my sisters and brothers who were all upstairs asleep. Quickly and quietly, I removed the cheap chain and swung opened the door; he stepped in front of me, his body posture stiffened aggressively. We locked eyes. Giving him no time to react, no time to flee I raised my hands outstretched raising up a King size plastic squirt bottle of Ivory liquid detergent and squirted aiming for his eyes. It left the man temporarily blinded before fleeing and although he was never caught or identified and never returned either.

Back in moment at this house I am thinking … Some call it sixth sense others call it intuition. I reason that it is a survival skill learned at a very early age and honed over years. Some may refer to it as skill, others call it intuition but whatever name you give it; you know when somebody is watching you. I feel that familiar pang in my stomach. I pulled myself to wakefulness. Still struggling to get a grasp overall, I felt somebody looking at me and I turned to my left only to find a little black haired boy standing there at the foot of the old stairway stroking a black kitten. He was standing there at the foot of the stairway steps … "Where did you come from?" I was thinking.

I could see his ashen face, with his piercing big blue eyes and jet-black hair standing at the foot of the stairway steps, motionless and silent just staring. This little boy sent chills down my spine as it reminded me of the little character in the “Omen” movie. He was standing there with a blank look just starring and didn’t say a word, I thought he was in shock, but quite frankly I don’t remember what happened to him or if he was even real. I said, "Hello, your Mom or Dad around?" No response just a dead stare. He just stood there with a far off stare not a word from his mouth. Our eyes fused on each other and my own big brown eyes never blinked. After a few more moments of me asking questions and getting no response I became annoyed, thinking "what the hell is going on here?" We stared at each other until I looked away. I had the feeling that he was not ever going to talk to me, and I do not even know if he was real because there was no mention of a little boy in that house afterward.

I returned to surveying the scene where I first noticed an odd black ring around the entire perimeter of the room. I picked up a physical trail easily enough when I caught a drift of unpleasantness to my nose and puffed my cheeks and blew a long breath quietly in dismay. It was the kind of odor always left me heaving inside my stomach and always ended badly, I remembered.

At that time, I was a senior officer, seasoned by years of experience Christian by scars and broken bones, testament of the years and the strangeness was just part of the job. Finding a source of this oddity was right up my league and like a riddle. The problem was I felt like I was just spinning my wheels with nobody else to witness this bizarre play unfolding inside but me. Maybe that’s why the other two officers fled in the first place, wait until we get back to the stationhouse I was thinking …

My ears were straining for the slightest sound as I stepped carefully through the living room and into the next room. Except for a gentle creak under feet, it was deathly still and quiet as I crept from room to room checking for anyone. I was following the origin of strangeness. Like an unseen index finger beckoning me further, pointing to the small kitchen in the next room. When I reached the doorway kitchen threshold I glanced down at the floor covered in cracked and worn linoleum. Inside the modest kitchen, my eyes scanned doorways as I cautiously paused shortly. All sense was heightened as I glanced around the room sniffing and surveying the scene. It was faint, but the smells became a bit more pronounced. I could hear old wood planks underneath the linoleum floor strain under my weight and cried as I walked around. I was puzzled for a moment, as I tried to take in the problem here.

As I paused in the kitchen, I noticed a kettle of stew simmered under low heat on an ultra-compact stove. It was a tiny old kitchen with a stew or something on the stove. It looked appetizing but I had no thoughts of tasting the soup. Although the place was old, it had a friendly feeling and in some strange way even tidy and quaint. To my right, a medium light cheap laminated table, the kind you would find at a garage sale for five dollars, with four matching chairs. It was a thrifty but inexpensive piece of furniture. One chair pulled back out of place almost blocking the path in the tiny kitchen. Then below the table and on the floor, I noticed the charcoal remains of two legs from the knees up. My eyes took everything in as if I was in a surreal world.

I stood back scooting the chair out. There were no feet that I could see only blue jeans roughly covering his thighs legs above the knees to the waist but everything else was burnt black as charcoal. I shook my head, stood up and twisted my neck to ease my knotted muscles. I puffed my cheeks and blew a long breath quietly in dismay.

A wave of pungent burnt flesh rose from the remains causing my stomach to wretch. His face was completely black as one would expect an over done steak on the outdoor grill, facing up bearing teeth with a hideous grin. I immediately felt the sweat beading up on my forehead. The putrid stench seared my nostrils confirmed what my eyes did not want to see. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the flashing lights dancing outside bouncing off walls and houses. Within minutes, all eyes were fixed on me. Several police officers and firefighters stormed the house ready to slay a dragon joined me. All dressed in battle gear, helmets, axes, respirators attired in their heavy coats and boots looking as puzzled as I when they noticed there were no dragons, and no fires. One overweight rookie firefighter in over-sized pants and coat picking up the rear stumbled in carrying a little box fan. Another walks up, his eyes glassy and red from a lack of sleep and foul breath says "What happened?" There was an awkward pause, then I saved them some time and directed them to the kitchen pointing to the floor where this burnt grotesque figure rests. I left them alone to grasp the scene while I made my way to the bedroom. One firefighter shrugged his shoulders and raised his hands, as if to say very well then. Once again, I called out to the little boy but was never ever able to locate him.

To the right of stove, I seen an open bedroom. Inside of the bedroom it looked like what you would expect a modest single adult male bedroom to look like consisting of an old TV, a single worn mattress on the floor and a beer bottle used as an ashtray. Nothing I observed led me to believe any indication of narcotic or alcohol abuse during my security sweep. So I rejoined a crowd of firefighters gathered around the body whispering among themselves some start out the doors to advise others to stand down and prepare to return back to their station house. It doesn’t take them long to depart and some of the detectives are arriving and a few enter and begin checking over what I’m sure is one of the strangest things they would experience. I recall speaking with a salesperson for a Memorial park where I recently purchased two private lots and when the subject turned to cremations I posed the question to him.

As a long time employee of the cemetery he worked his way up through several positions before becoming one of their top salespersons. He told me they use heated furnaces in excess of 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit for their crematoriums and then, as he says “it doesn’t completely burn all of the bones,” so they have to pulverize the remaining ashes into powder for processing. In my college studies some of the textbooks claimed crematoriums furnace heat was 900 degrees Fahrenheit. So, I stood there listening to the detectives talking with each other questioning how that could have occurred, even trying out lame possibilities before discounting each one of them. In the end however, the issue of the how much heat is necessary for properly cremating a human being and arguing over whether its 900 or 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit is a moot point. I would search my memory hard for some point of reference, something that to grasp ahold of and balance reality with but I could not. The only other time I ever seen a human burned to such degree was during a metro jet airliner plane crash years prior to this day. When you consider all possibilities I mean, that dry old tinderbox of a house still standing and the man burned to charcoal on an old linoleum floor underneath an old wooden table that was never so much as scorched, is simply just amazing. Nobody knows who or here the little boy came from or how it was that he was there ...

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Sounds like some one is writing stories and trying to present them as creepy pasta.

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Just a word, from a writing standpoint...a phrase like "my own big brown eyes" is NOT one you should ever use in first-person narration. Unless he's looking in a mirror, the viewpoint character is not in a position to notice the color of his own eyes. That sentence reeks of you, the author, observing the character from the outside. Since you're presenting this as a personal account of a real event, that's the last impression you want to give...

Your opening line, "Welcome aboard, climb in and ride along with me," sounds a little forced. It calls attention to itself and seems like somebody trying too hard to sound casual and chatty.

A good rule of thumb: use one flashback per story, and only when it contributes something the present storyline. The one about the saving the person from the burning house is dramatic and all, but it doesn't really tie into the current narrative. The only thing the two stories have in common is an emergency call about a fire, and that's not enough--they have to parallel or contrast each other to make putting them together worthwhile.

As for the intruder-squirted incident, it's even less appropriate here. Save that one for another story.

There's no need to go on about your favorite authors, just to mention why you haven't read Bleak House. This isn't about you and your literary tastes, and it makes you seem like you're trying to show off. In fact, you've put a bit too much of you in this whole offense, but we're as not interested in you as you are. We want to know what happened, not what was going on in your life at the time.

And lastly, you need to go through this whole thing and clean up your excess verbiage. The best description is the simplest one that does the job, not one that shows off how many adjectives you can string together. You've got some good, vivid phrases here, but far too many of them piled up--they're tripping over each other like thirty guys all trying to play basketball at once.

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That was an interesting read - Thank You. Strange about the little boy....

I don't envy people like you who have to attend house fires, you never know what you'll find when you get there, horrible. My friend lost everything he had in a house fire, it almost cost him his life too.

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Is this an entry for the National Writers of the Month Club?

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