By Kevin Joseph Reigle
When I bought the house, the realtor didn’t tell me a movie was filmed on the property. I ended up hearing about it from an old-timer down at the market. He said I should try and track down a copy. It’d be a chance to see the house in its prime.
My plans were to fix up the old place, which was why I bought it. I’d always wanted to restore an old house. Now, recently divorced and starting a new job as Associate Professor of History at Mingo Fork Community College, it felt like the right time.
I didn’t realize how hard it would be to find a copy of the movie. A Hollywood blockbuster, it wasn’t. I eventually found a bootleg website that sold a burned DVD.
From what I could find online, “The Quartz Child,” was a television movie that originally aired in 1978 on NBC. Apparently, since the main characters were all children, the movie was licensed by the Family Channel and aired frequently in the ‘80s. The plot centered around a family moving into a farmhouse and the son being haunted by the ghost of a girl who died during the Revolutionary War.
The movie was standard fair, but what happened behind the scenes really caught my attention. One of the extras disappeared during filming and the actor who played the son, was found dead on the property the day after the movie wrapped. From what I discovered in the newspaper morgue; his body was found next to the old well behind the house.
His name was Tony Case and according to the obituary, was nineteen when he died. In the movie, the character he played was much younger, probably twelve or thirteen. The extra was a teenage girl who could be seen during the cotillion scene. After seeing her picture in the newspaper, I paused the movie at the right moment to see her leaning against the fireplace, looking out a window at a night sky long since passed.
She’d never been found. If she was still alive, she’d be almost sixty, but that seemed unlikely. Perhaps, just like the movie, her spirit roamed the farmhouse looking for someone to free her soul.
The two incidents weren’t considered connected by the local sheriff. The boy’s death was chalked up to a drug overdose and her disappearance was barely investigated. Her name was Laura Andrews, and I couldn’t find much about her. It seemed strange in today’s world of social media and Google that a time existed not long ago when a person could pass through the world without leaving a footprint.
Standing in the master bedroom, I looked through the casement windows at the woods surrounding the property. Three planks covered the top of the crumbling well. Weeds sprouted through the cracked mortar between the rocks. As the evening fog crept in, I could imagine the body of the young actor stretched out in the weeds. I stepped away from the window and poked a finger at the horsehair plaster disintegrating from the wall. The furniture left behind showed hints of former elegance, but now, covered in cobwebs, scratched, or worse, they were ghosts of their former glory. The railing on the staircase cracked and splintered off the metal spindles. The landing opened into a sitting room with strips of gold wallpaper peeling away. An iron grate pressed against a brick fireplace. Water damaged sections of the ceiling hung from the rafters. Parts of the floor were discolored from years of rain seeping through cracked roof shingles.
Above the front door, transom windows caught headlights from the road and glowed red until the car disappeared around the bend. I stepped outside and looked at the two white pillars supporting the overhang. When I bought the house, I thought they were wood, but later, I realized they were painted cement.
A loud crack came from behind the house. I reached into the toolbox and took out a flashlight. I flicked it on and ambled around back. At first, I couldn’t see anything. The fog and waning crescent of the moon made it hard to see, even with the flashlight.
Stepping through the Porte-cocheres, the searching beam caught the planks from the old well as they splintered into the sky.
Bio: Kevin Joseph Reigle’s short stories have appeared in Beyond Words Literary Magazine, The Pensworth Literary Review, The Dillydoun Review, Bridge Eight, Prometheus Dreaming, TDR Daily, The Yard, and Drunk Monkeys. His short story Early Bird Café was longlisted for the Dillydoun International Fiction Prize. He teaches at the University of the Cumberlands.