Grave Matters
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"So, could you give us a brief recap of the events that have happened in your home?"

Lila Graves leaned in closer to Elizabeth Knass, casting a quick glance aside to her partner sitting next to her on the couch, Kole Graves, before looking back to Elizabeth with a look of concern. She and her husband were a pair of paranormal investigators, the best in the country. They had dealt with hundreds of cases in their time on the job, dealing with each with proficient knowledge of the occult. They had made talk show appearances, published books, and were practically a household name.

What few knew was that they were in fact agents of the Foundation. The role they occupied was unusual - it wasn't quite a cover story, as they often dealt with the paranormal themselves and genuinely helped those terrorized with hauntings. But at the same time, they were well-versed in the Foundation's rigid, clinical guidelines for the proper ways to refer to the anomalous. The word "ghost" was only partly in their vocabulary.

Elizabeth, on a couch opposite to the duo, wiped the tears from her eyes and began to speak.

"It all started after we moved into this house. It came for a good price, but I guess that's because of the ghosts. We thought it was too good to be true at the time! It was!"

Kole nodded. "It's always the case. People can't deal with the ghosts, so they just sell the house and move on. You did the right thing coming to us: we can help solve this problem."

"A few days after we moved in, we started hearing footsteps wandering around the house, from all over. We'd be downstairs, hear walking upstairs. Be upstairs, hear it below. Sometimes, we'd hear it from the room over. It's an old, creaky house, and you can hear everybody that's in it. There's always more than there should be.

"That went on for a few weeks, perhaps about two months or so. Then, it started to get worse. One day, we got home and there were piles of dirt in the middle of the floor in a couple of rooms. All neat and tidy - no dirt anywhere else in the house. It couldn't have been any of us, we had all been out. But the doors were locked, and the windows shut.

"There's a spot in the fields where no grass grows. It's all withered and dry. There's nothing different about that part of the field, but the dogs won't go there. I once tossed a ball in that way, Paxton charged out to fetch it and then … just stopped, right in front of the patch. Wouldn't go any further, refused to go through.

"The latest thing that happened was we woke up one morning and all the windows were fogged up. But there were handprints on all the windows. Every single one. Even the ones on the second floor, fogged up and filled with handprints. The cars, the shed? Nothing. Not even a drip of mist on any of them."

All of these were likely symptoms of a haunting, but the Graves needed more information if they wanted to be certain of what was going on. There were too many cases in which something that seemed like an obvious haunting turned out to be nothing more than a false alarm: the paranormal fanatics saw ghosts when there was nothing, unrelated anomalous phenomena were confused for a haunting or some simply lied.

Lili nodded. "We'd like to ask a few questions, just to establish the type of haunting we're dealing with here. Is that alright?"

"Yes, of course. Anything."

"Did anyone die in this house, or nearby?" This was a standard question, to establish a possible source of any hauntings. It wasn't necessary, but three out of every five actual hauntings the Graves had dealt with had been in homes with previous deaths in them. Vengeful spirits tended to linger when there was negative energy.

The homeowner gulped. "Well… the previous owner of the house died a few weeks before we moved in. He didn't have any close friends or family, we bought the house from a distant cousin in Florida."

"How'd he die?"

"Heart attack. Very sudden, out of nowhere."

"Have all of your clocks been functioning correctly since this all started?" Temporal resonance, a phenomenon in which two time periods become linked, is often mistaken by a layperson for a haunting but is drastically different in origin and treatment. One easy indicator that is temporal in origin is interference in any time-keeping devices, which often become unsynced.

"Well, yes, they have."

"Have any objects of yours disappeared from the house?" Kole jumped in. "Or have you found any objects you didn't recognize?" Interdimensional overlap also has effects similar to hauntings, with sounds and effects being carried between two similar areas in different dimensions. Unlike a haunting, objects would tend to crossover between planes as well.

"Nothing other than the dirt."

"Have you been having intrusive thoughts, that are not your own?" Certain memetic lifeforms - noncorporeal beings made up entirely of thoughts and emotions - could be mistaken for a ghost, taking up residence in an individual's mind. Any perceptions would be unable to be trusted, having been faked or made up by the memetic entity.

"I haven't, I don't know about the rest of my family…"

"Have you been waking up at night, unable to move?" The final false positive that the Graves looked for was purely mundane. Neither thought that sleep paralysis was the cause of the phenomena the [homeowner's] had been dealing with, but it was the most common explanation for supposed supernatural occurrences. Many simply were unaware of the truth.

"No, we've been wide awake for everything."


Elizabeth looked across the room, at the phone.

"I think you should get that."

Cassandra stood and quickly walked to the phone. It was a landline, attached to the wall. It had probably been included with the house and never removed.

"We get calls from it sometimes. Only from that phone. Nobody calls the landline."

Cassandra slowly raised the headpiece to her ear.

On the other end, there was breathing. Loud. Seemingly, constantly into the receiver. There was something off about it at first, that Cassandra couldn't place. But as she continued, it became clear: it was more than one breath. She couldn't make out how many, but it was a crowd, into the receiver.

The headpiece was slammed into the wall piece with a large thunk.

"How often does that happen?"

"Every day."


Cassandra and Kole didn't speak until they were already on the highway, headed back to Site-18. They had sent the Knass family to "a friend's house" an hour's drive away (which in reality, was a Foundation owned and operated safe-house, typically used for agents in the field), and were heading to get supplies.

Official Foundation policy was that they weren't to discuss sensitive information too close to the location of the subject, out of fear of conversation falling on the otherworldly ears. Cassandra had always thought the distance was a bit extreme but complied anyway. It was better to have a moment to think.

"I think they're being affected by a post-mortem entity."

"Absolutely. There's an anomaly present, and it's not any of the usual false positives. All the details add up."

"Think we need to bring in any backup?"

"No, we'll be able to handle this one ourselves. Doesn't look like anything special to me."

"Do you think it's the old owner?"

"No, there's something odd about that. All of the signs seem to indicate that there are multiple entities present, not just one. Lots of things that had to be done by a crowd."

"So perhaps the entities affected the previous owner, and killed him? Something like the Amberson case?"

"That's a throwback, isn't it? Back before we were the Graves. But the intensity of these events seems … strong. I'm not sure if the previous owner would've just ignored it."

"Right. It seems recent, but the apparent recent cause doesn't line up with the phenomena observed. What do you make of the dirt?"

"Typically associated with burials, right? So we could have something in that patch in the yard."

"We should see if we can find any more information about the old owners, both the most recent and any before then. Might something else to explain it."

The rest of the drive was spent mulling over every last detail of the case, picking apart all of the facts from the interview. The conclusions didn't change much from their initial conclusions, although the pair began to grow more uneasy at the question of the source. The previous homeowner was beginning to seem more of a victim than a perpetrator.

After the long drive, the car pulled up to Site-18. Similar to many other Foundation Sites, it was located in a disguised building, not too far from civilization. From the outside, it looked like any other faceless office park, but it stretched far below the ground, filled with containment chambers, staff housing, and research laboratories.

The first stop was a visit to requisition materials for the return visit: a combination of occult materials and scientific equipment. Some of it was real, but most was merely to assuage the fears and belief of the Knass family. It wouldn't make sense for the expert exorcists to be lacking in equipment. Keeping up appearances as what the public expected was crucial for the Graves.

The next important step was to research all the property records. For any civilian investigator or amateur hack of a paranormal junkie, this would be a somewhat long and complicated process. But the Graves had the full force of the Foundation at their backs, and the records were in their email inbox within an hour of making their request.

According to record, the previous owner of the house was one Roger Shaw, who had owned the house for just about twenty years. During that time, he was the sole occupant, despite the house having three bedrooms. But as Lila read the name, it began to faintly feel familiar. It had come up before, somehow, but she couldn't place it. Puzzled, she turned to other databases for one "Roger Shaw".

Meanwhile, Kole was in the lab, having just requested a fast-tracked analysis of the soil recovered from the Knass homestead. He didn't need much information — just a quick word on the absence or presence of any ectoplasm would be enough for his purposes. A full result would be helpful, but all he wanted to know was the presence of any ethereal entities.

As he waited, one of the lab techs came next to him.

"You're one of those ghost hunters, right? I thought the Foundation didn't deal with nutjobs, like you."

Kole glared at the technician. It was a sentiment that he had encountered many times during his career as an agent: that his position, dressed in turn of the century occultism, had no place in the rigorous and clearly defined, scientific machine that was the Foundation. But that occultism was behind his true methods of operation and was nothing more than dress.

"Everything you know about us is a front for Masquerade Protocol. Why else would I be in a lab?"

The technician looked at the centrifuges, reading the samples and frowned. A brief glance towards Kole, and then he sulked away. The results came out soon: an extremely high and confirmed presence of ectoplasmic materials in the soil. There were ghosts under that patch of dirt.


The Graves arrived at the Knass farm the next morning, with Elizabeth coming in a second car minutes later. Normally, the Graves preferred it when the homeowners would stay home, but Elizabeth had insisted she be there. There wasn't really a way to say no to such a demand - it was relevant to the homeowner, after all.

As Elizabeth stepped out her car, it was clear she was confused. There was good reason for it: the Graves seemed like they were prepared for a day of labor, rather than the more formal seance she had been expecting. That was one of the things they had promised the day before, after all.

"What's with the shovel? I thought you were going to be having a seance?"

"We were, but then we did a bit of property research and we have a theory about the circumstances of your haunting. Come on, we're going to the backyard, to the dead spot in the yard."

"Don't these things normally take a while? Days, weeks? You always do more in the stories I've read and seen of you."

"Look, we're the best ghost hunters in the world, no exceptions. The short stories where we go in and solve the ghost issue in hours don't make for good television, but that's our norm."

"In that case, what's the theory?"

"Well, for starters, we don't think you're being haunted by the ghost of the old owner. There's a lot of stuff that doesn't add up with that, from what you've described."

The trio reached the backyard. Kole stabbed the ground with the shovel and began to dig, continuing to talk with the homeowner. He dug fast, trying to get deep.

"You see, everything indicates that you are being haunted by multiple entities, not just one. Maybe the old homeowner is one, but there has to be more. It can't just be the man who lived here before you."

Elizabeth pulled her coat closer around her. She hadn't noticed had cold it was outside yet. Was it getting colder? She was freezing. Neither of the Graves seemed to really notice or care.

"Really? Then what do you think it is?"

Lila's looked to the ground and sighed. "Well, we're not certain about that. We have a theory, but…" She looked back up at Elizabeth. "What do you know about the previous homeowner?"

"Just that he died, really. Unexpectedly. Do you think he was killed by the ghost? Er, ghosts?"

"Undoubtedly." Kole laughed. The hole was getting deeper, at least a solid foot into the ground now. It wasn't very wide, but that didn't seem to be his goal.

"The old owner of this house was involved in two different missing person cases. One of them went to trial, he was the defendant. They didn't find him guilty in that case, not enough evidence. The other case didn't go anywhere, but he was a major witness. Those were about, five or so years ago? Big event in the community, was in the news for a cycle."

"Oh. That's, uh, pretty horrifying. So you think—"

Kole abruptly leaned down, and looked at the whole, before stepping back, looking up to his wife. "I just found bone - looks human too"

"We think that he killed those girls that went missing. He got away with it. But he really got away with all the other ones he killed over the years. The girls he killed and threw into a pit."

"Oh my god."

"They're angry, of course. But one person, they only have so much force, so much willpower. That's why ghosts aren't very common: only a few have the ability to actually enact change in the world. But if you put enough dead bodies together, all who want something similar, then you can start to see change. They want revenge, but they're not together enough to realize they already have it."

"So what do you do know?"

"Well, the first thing we do is contact the cops. Since there's a good chance that some of these murders went across state lines, we'll have to contact the FBI. Luckily for you, we have a contact there who knows us from a couple old cases."

"We'll get the FBI to come over and investigate the scene in full. It might take a little while for them to check out the whole property and look for evidence, but once they do they should let you back into your house. By then, the post-mortem vectors will have been removed - and those are the focal point of the spectral phenomena you are experiencing, the haunting should clear up."

"That's it?"

"That's it."

The next few hours went according to protocol for the Graves. They made called the authorities, gave their report, watched as excavation of the mass grave began, and said their good-byes to the Knass family. It was all rather, simple, but that was the idea of their position: to resolve spectral phenomena without needing high-profile containment.

There was nothing special about an ordinary ghost, after all.

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