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August 8: Story Challenge in 99-words

The dress was sewn with care. The long slender sleeves have small caps at the shoulders, and the hem would have hung below the knees in a stylish drape. Small porcelain buttons align with neat buttonholes. Despite decades of sun, brutal Keweenaw winters outside the kitchen window, and a transition from home to coyote den to goat barn, the dress thins and fades.

Likely to disintegrate if touched, the dress has become an icon of Ghost House Farm.

My daughter Allison and her husband Drew raise goats, pigs, chickens, market crops, and flowers for bouquets. They farm like science nerds who love the writing of Brandon Sanderson, hip podcasts, D&D, wild spaces, and local food. Ghost House Farm is an expression of their life, creativity, and commitment to humanely raised food, soil, and water. They honor the land ancestors and immigrants who farmed (and mined) before them.

You’ve heard about my goats(es) and how they live in the ghost house. Drew and Allison have researched old property maps and know that as many as nine houses were on their farm. I’ve researched people who lived at the Franklin Junior Mine and farmed this property known a village called Boston Location. I’ve shared with you some of the cemetery stories that have ties to Boston Location. History lingers in the shadows of old orchards.

Until now, I’ve not had an actual ghost story to tell you.

It could be explained as a sleep disturbance. It’s a story that could have been a dream. It’s a story to question. But it is my story. An otherworldly experience.

Friday, Allison and Drew left for Wisconsin to attend a wedding. They have partnered with other young farmers in the area and have people to check their livestock and crops. They asked me to dog-sit and give blind-kitty snuggles. I even faked a diurnal cycle for a sick chicken in the basement. In exchange, I got to pick the market gardens for nightly kale salads and watch Our Flag Means Death on their HBO account. They even let me sleep in their bedroom where I could delight in air conditioning.

That’s where the farm visit went awry.

Normally, I sleep in the guest room/home office. But it had been a rare hot Keweenaw day and I don’t have air conditioning of my own. I was looking forward to a cool night’s sleep. The pups and I settled into bed and I began to drift off. I don’t know how long I was asleep but gradually I became aware of a strong energetic presence in the form of words.


Startled, I woke up immediately only to find myself in a state of sleep paralysis. In my 20s, sleep paralysis impacted me so badly, that I thought I was dying. That’s when I discovered I had PTSD. It’s been years since I’ve suffered from this condition, having retrained my sleep cycles through meditation, CBT, and EMDR. In that paralyzed state, my mind was fully awake but my body would not move and my voice would not work.

After numerous attempts, I finally yelled, “Fuck off!”

Not a classy response but an honest one. I unplugged the air conditioner, grabbed my pillow, and took the dogs to the guest room to sleep. It was hot but felt safer to me. I felt like whatever the presence was, it didn’t want me in Allison and Drew’s room.

The next morning a friend picked me up for a veteran’s funeral. It turned out to be a beautiful celebration of life and I found Pastor Bucky’s sermon to be profound and even a balm for what I had experienced the night before. When I told my friend the story, we both got goosebumps as I repeated the words. When I retold the story to her boyfriend he suggested it was a nightmare.

True. I had been thinking the same thing. But usually, it’s the other way around with sleep paralysis (at least from my earlier experiences with the condition). The paralysis happens first and the terror follows. Sleep disturbances can be triggering for me, but this was so intense that if it were merely a nightmare, why did it trigger a condition I have long overcome? I was more curious than scared.

At some point during the day, I decided to accept the incident as a ghostly message. I don’t see ghosts or channel ghosts, but I’m a cemetery story-collecter. I can perceive stories from minor clues that feed my imagination. The imagination is often disregarded as fantasy or “not real” but some of my greatest truths and epiphanies have emerged from this sensory organ.

As creative writers, we know the value of a good imagination.

Thus, I decided to channel a story. A ghost story from the woman whose dress hangs in the house turned goat barn. And what I discovered surprised even me (and I was the one writing).

She won’t tell me her name. She doesn’t know that I’m Allison’s mom, and she has no desire to connect with me. But she’s connected to my daughter. That idea concerned me until I realized that this ghost loves flowers, too. The farmhouse was never her house. She lived next door and had planted all the Sweet William, lilacs, pink roses, myrtle, globe thistle, monkshood, and oregano. She is the farm’s tree twister. She loved the beauty of the place and suffered great sorrow after her father died. She had never married but her brother got rid of her by sending her off to an asylum in Marquette.

Her breath, once released from her earthly body, found its way back to the land and flowers she had loved so much. Not all ghosts haunt. She tends to the seeds, buds, and flowers of Ghost House Farm. Her dress neatly hangs in the goat parlor and she is fine with the arrangement because she has another woman to share a love of floriculture.

Evidently, I disturbed her peace when I went to sleep in Allison’s room. She was telling me to get out on behalf of my daughter. They have flowers to tend and I’m a rock gardener. I remind her of the heavy-handed men who built the stone walls and mines near the farm. Allison is going to have to let her flower partner know, I’m just mum. And like rocks as beautiful as flowers.

Later that day, I cleaned the rooms upstairs with rosemary and selenite. I made the bed and promised never to sleep in Allison’s bed again. I understood how much energy it took for her to muster the warning to me and it happened at the juncture in sleep when one enters into dreaming. The same point in a REM cycle that — if disturbed — causes sleep paralysis. The perfect point for ghosts to speak.

That’s my ghost story and I’m sticking to it.

August 8, 2022, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about “the one who left the dress.” A 1940s-era dress still hangs in an abandoned house. Who left it and why? You can take any perspective and write in any genre. It can be a ghost story. Or not. Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by August 13, 2022. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form. The Collection publishes on the Wednesday following the next Challenge. Rules & Guidelines.
  2. Carrot Ranch only accepts stories through the form below. Accepted stories will be published in a weekly collection. Writers retain all copyrights.
  3. Your blog or social media link will be included in your title when the Collection publishes.
  4. Please include your byline which is the name or persona you attribute to your writing.
  5. Please include the hashtag #99Word Stories when sharing either the Challenge or Collection posts in social media.

Submissions are now closed. Find our latest challenge to enter.


  1. I think all of your problems started with the kale salad. That way madness lies at the best of times. 😉

  2. Liz H says:

    That’s quite the story!
    Ghost or no, PTSD returned, or lthe present calling a deeper dive into lessons thought learned, there’s grest value to ceremonies of remembrance. Honor pains from before, memories unearthed, spread flowers for sweetness, herbs for rebirth.
    And how the heck am I gonna fit this setting into where I am in the Disappeared serial? Yikes!

    • Liz H says:

      Two for the price of one. Winning!!

    • Charli Mills says:

      “…ceremonies of remembrance. Honor pains from before, memories unearthed, spread flowers for sweetness, herbs for rebirth.” A tasty bite of the inspiration that arrived. You did well to fit in the Disappeared serial.

  3. Gloria says:

    I love that story. I’m an old fashioned ghost story lover. I never want to encounter a ghost, unless it’s a kind ghost who might like a wee chat in the evenings. What’s the chances?

  4. Yikes. I did not see this one coming.
    Where were the dogs in all this? They went with you to the guest room but how were they when it was going down? Did they react?

  5. Norah says:

    I like your story, but I’d rather it be totally imaginary. Sleep paralysis sounds terrifying. I’m pleased it made you more curious than afraid. You got a good story out of it anyway.

  6. LaShelle says:

    Wow! Sleep paralysis is crazy scary and I love where you go in this story. While I don’t believe in ghosts, I do believe in divine entities. ❤️ I hope you find peace

    • Charli Mills says:

      Fortunately, I knew about sleep paralysis but when I first experienced it I thought I was dying. I can think of the dress ghost as a divine flower entity who connects with my daughter who grows the bouquets. Thanks, LaShelle!

  7. Charli, I got goosebumps from your story… you picked up the energies of the flower lady!! You were correct in how you handled the room the next day. I had a similar dream/sleep paralysis. I woke up, opened my eyes and there was Cernunnos, the horned god. The veil must have been thin because it was as if he looked at me through an open window. He said nothing, but I felt I passed whatever test I had been given. I’ll never forget the experience. Those old houses have so many energies swirling around. It’s cool how she wanted to protect Alison. <3

    • Jules says:

      Cernunnos… ?? I’ll have to look that up. Years ago I think I had a similar experience, but I said a blessing and ‘it’ went away!!! I looked him up… I think my ‘guy’ was different. Very different. But the image looked like something from a TV show… that maybe I had actually watched way back then?

      • Cernunnos is a Celtic god. I’d been studying the gods and goddesses and I think I connected with him somehow. I usually connect with the goddesses, but for whatever reason, he visited me. <3

      • Jules says:

        I think my visitation was more from an evil source. But since it was so close to the actual image from something I saw… I think it was my brain working overtime!! (Over 30 years ago, maybe forty and I still remember!).

      • I hate those nightmares like that. Yes, our brains do seem to work overtime sometimes.

      • Jules says:

        I put it down to overactive imagination.
        And the added prayer, just a bonus precaution.
        While I remember ‘it’ clearly that particular image has not occured again!!

      • Charli Mills says:

        Those moments can be recalled sharply from the dreamworld or beyond the veil, Jules. I’ve been reading books of late by mythologists and they call that in-between state “the imaginal.” They say we can return to it any time. The dreamworld will use startling images or emotions to get our attention. Ask your ‘guy’ what his story is!

      • Jules says:

        Oh… that was so long ago – and fear was associated with it. I think offering grace and goodness helped. Could have been my own fear too, getting that form and then me having to conquer it.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Old house, woods, bodies of water…so many swirling energies, Colleen! How exciting and affirming to have such a vision especially when you were beginning your studies to remember your roots. I started to feel exceptionally good after my encounter.

  8. suespitulnik says:

    What a story. Goosebumps is right. I used to explore old unlived-in houses with my sisters when we were young, but I don’t recall ever having a ghost experience. I want to know how Allison will help the presence know you are Mum, and always welcome. Keep us posted. I agree with Liz H., how are we going to fit this prompt in with our ongoing stories?

    • Charli Mills says:

      Exploring old abandoned houses must have been insightful, Sue. You’ll have to tell me some stories! Before I told Allison, she lit her morning candles before her yoga practice and welcomed her ancestors. She said she felt the presence of someone else and said, “Welcome Mystery Woman.” After I told her the story, she said she has felt the presence of the Flower Lady before. They both love the farm flowers. You did good to find a way into the prompt!

  9. Jules says:

    Oh Charli,

    I’ve had sleep sleep paralysis many times. I just never knew what to call it. It is scary when you can’t move and you think there are other people/things in your home. Some that might be familiar others not! And to be touched physically as well!

    Hopefully your daughter’s spirit friend will welcome you too. (((Hugs)))

    I’ve got my entry in. 🙂

    • Charli Mills says:

      Jules, it’s a real phenomenon and often people don’t know what it is. I was having a PTSD breakdown before I understood I had PTSD. But it can happen for many reasons. It occurs on the cusp of dreaming so dreams can be brought back with us into the waking but paralyzed state. Focus on breaking the hold — but you don’t have to swear, lol.

      • Jules says:

        I believe I recognize that the times I have had ‘such’ – there were stressfull times. Breaking that hold… sometimes is strange as you think you have but have not!

        Thankfully it doesn’t happen often. I think PTSD can occur in mild waves? It is possible like depression that PTSD is not diagnosed as much as it could be?

        May we all come to points that we can suffer less and live happy – more!! 💕

      • Charli Mills says:

        Sometimes PTSD can be misdiagnosed as depression or anxiety, but there are other symptoms that can be problematic such as hypervigilance, sleep disturbance, and triggers. Triggers are never mild. They are a body’s response to the brain believing it is in a life or death situation. People use “triggered” a lot in general terms to describe strong reactions, but PTSD triggers are sheer fight, flight, or freeze responses to an amygdala hijack of the brain. Meds don’t work on PTSD despite pharmaceutical claims, however meditation, EFT, CBT, EMDR, exposure, and –supposedly– a single LSD trip (check out research at John Hopkins) are among the most effective tools to manage triggers.

        Undiagnosed, it will make itself known. The difference between my PTSD experience and Todd’s is that I learned to manage mine in my 20s. We discovered that once age becomes a factor, the brain can do its own triggering which creates a problematic loop to break. It can lead to suicide. Further, with organic brain disease, the brain can stay in a triggered state daily. It’s awful to witness and awful to endure. Many who aren’t familiar with PTSD might mistake symptoms for anti-social behavior. I’ve helped many people as a friend simply because I know PTSD intimately and can recognize a triggered state. I know when to be gracious and when to say, “Hey, we need to reset!”

        Nothing annoys me more, though than someone claiming their emotional sensitivity is PTSD. Actually, PTSD makes people less sensitive, sometimes to the point of losing all empathy, numbing out their emotions, or disassociating from them. As a writer and someone with PTSD, I also think it’s impossible to predict the triggers of readers. Again, it’s a sensitivity issue, not a PTSD one. My triggers are so weird sensitivity labels do nothing for me.

        Ah! I think suffering is part of life for us all. May we find joy and meaning in the life experiences we each have! I love the idea of living happy, Jules. We can help lift each other toward that end.

  10. What an experience, but what an incredible ghost story, too, Charli.

    I didn’t know you have had accounts of sleep paralysis during your life. And it’s interesting from the comments that others have also had it. I’ve had a few occasions of sleep paralysis where I can feel and see somebody or something trying g to remove the duvet off me. At the same time, I can hear a flapping noise. I’ve never spoken about it before because I’d always thought it was only happening to me, so it’s interesting to read that I’m not the only one who has encountered it.

    • suespitulnik says:

      Hugh, It’s always a relief to know you aren’t the only one experiencing something that doesn’t seem normal.

    • Charli Mills says:

      It can be scary, Hugh, which is why I think many are reluctant to talk about it. It’s a very real phenomenon but we experience it differently and give it different attributions. I’ve been reading about the dreamworld through mythologists who apply both psychology and iconic storytelling to the ideas. I’m less afraid and more curious to ask questions! Next time, ask your flapper for a story! Or press into the dreamworld to imagine it.

  11. This was a fascinating – and frightening – story! Hope you’re okay, Charli 🙂

  12. Jennie says:

    Wow! I’m glad you respected the ghost and understood her.

    • Charli Mills says:

      When told psychically to leave, oh yes, I’m gone, lol. Her story is a good one, though, Jennie. She is happy where she is on the land where she tends flowers and trees.

      • Jennie says:

        It seems like she is. Such a wonderful story. I feel sorry for those who don’t believe or have never had an experience. It’s powerful.

      • Charli Mills says:

        I like that there is so much we don’t understand about our world, and the connections we have all around us.

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