It all happened in a quiet west Texas town called Turnaround during the years of the Great Depression. This little town was really quite ordinary in every sense of the word, except for one thing: right in the heart of it stood an old haunted house.
Like most of the people who lived there, the four young boys around whom our story centers did everything they could to avoid passing by this run-down mansion. This was the wise course to take! After all, the tales were legendary: anyone foolhardy enough to venture too close to it would be dragged inside by a ghoulish phantom! The boys had no wish for that kind of an adventure, so they went considerably out of their way each morning to walk down one of the other streets that would take them to school. No doubt it was inconvenient, but there was simply no other choice; no one in his right mind would pass by the menacing house!
And one fateful afternoon on the way home from school, just as they were all about to take their usual detour, Justin turned to his friends and asked, "How do we know that old house is actually haunted?"
With the exception of old stories and excitable hearsay, not one of his buddies had a real answer to his question other than to say, "Well, it just is."
But Justin was tired of going the long way around. He wanted to know, once and for all, the truth of the matter! It took some doing, but he convinced his schoolmates to approach the haunted house with him. Sure enough, it was just as predicted: as they drew closer, strange noises seemed literally to seep out of the walls. Shadows took on shapes, and a cold presence permeated the air itself. Here was proof that the house really was haunted!
The boys would have run, but the sound of Justin's voice, and the words he kept quietly speaking, held them steadfast.
"Nobody knows for sure," he kept telling himself over and over again. Armed and comforted with only his newfound uncertainty about the place, he ventured further up the weedâ€“filled walk toward the front door that was already partly agape. Before he knew it, Justin had stepped inside. Meanwhile, his friends—who decided to wait in front of the porch steps—looked at each other in complete disbelief.
At first, the dim light, along with the tension of his drumming heart, caused Justin to jump at every strange noise. But as he dared to walk into each darkened corner to see what was causing the noises there, he soon began laughing out loud at his own fears. The only thing strange going on in that old house was the number of ways in which its old timbers would shudder from extreme old age, that's all. The wind passing through its weatherâ€“worn side boards made it howl. It really was pretty funny to think that nearly the whole town of Turnaround could have been so frightened by nothing!
A few minutes later, satisfied with his discoveries, Justin ran out into the light to tell his friends that there was nothing to be afraid of, but not one of them went in to see for himself. Each had his reason: it was late; tomorrow would be better; so on and so on. One boy even said he knew the house wasn't haunted all along.
Sure enough, the next day none of Justin's friends wanted to appear to be a coward, so they all walked with him past the old house on the way to school. But they never stopped looking over their shoulders, and they still jumped at each strange noise until the old house was out of sight. You see, they were secretly still afraid, because they had never