The Ghost of Kemper Haus: 1987
“Here… watch this man, my buddy highly recommended this one to me.” Omar’s older brother Henry told Kabe. “What is it?”
“I think it’s one of his boxing flicks, Sugar Ray versus Foreman.” Omar answered. “Sugar Ray versus Foreman?” Henry abruptly responded, “Ray didn’t fight—“
“Hagler…yeah, that’s who it was…no…maybe it was Norton, I get those guys confused, I’m not sure who Sugar Ray’s fighting but I know for sure Sugar Ray is fighting.” Omar corrected himself.
Henry puts the tape in the VCR and presses play. He sat down on the loveseat, folds his arms behind his shoulders, adjusting himself into a more comfortable position. He clearly appeared to be exhausted.
“So what the hell you guys been up to?” He sat forward. “Why the hell do you both guys look like you been suckin on a pig’s tit?” Before Omar and Kabe could reply Henry continued on again changing subjects.
“O.K… Are you ready for this one?” He continued on nearly without taking a breath. “This lady called my boss cuz when we delivered her fridge the other day we left a little dime sized hole in her linoleum tile floor. So she’s ranting and ravin to the boss about how she’s paying $900.00 for this silver side by side and we scratched the side of the door, marked up her floor and how she’s gonna sue us unless we replaced her whole entire floor. Well my boss tells her we’ll have a contractor come out and measure the area we damaged and replaced just the one tile, not the whole fuckin floor. So she’s still pissed cuz the scratch on her door, which was my fault to begin with, and wants a new fridge, so my buddy and I load this new 1987 fridge, fuckin back breaker, remove the doors to get it inside her narrow entranceway after removing the older version from her house, nearly busted my hand doin that. So were movin this new model in and just as were getting ready to slide it back against the wall we noticed the new model is just a hair wider than the other one.” He shows them both with his index finger and thumb. “This fuckin thing is about a 16th of an inch off from fitting under the top cabinet frame. The fuckin trim was in the way, so I tell her we can’t alter any wood inside the home she’ll have to remove the trim herself before we can get it back there. So I’m sittin there…I didn’t fuckin have time to deal with that broad, let alone I had ten other deliveries to make.” Before Henry got to continue his story, Kabe tried to change the subject again, in regret.
“Did you ever hear from Kevin?” A heedless question he threw out of nowhere. Henry’s black cheeks seemed to grow darker. “You know that cocksucker almost got his ass kicked about 3:30 A.M. yesterday morning. He comes bangin his way up the stairs looking for Bubby and when he noticed his door was locked, he starts getting right next to my face callin me “Big Fat Cock Sucker.” He once again gestures his fingers this time with quote symbols. “Well mother fucker, I damn near got up and whipped his ass, doing that shit while I’m asleep on my day off.”
Good ol’ Henry Redding, genuinely a good guy but a fast talker with his famous lines he overused around all who dare strike up a conversation with him. His “Are you ready for this one.” or, “I’m sittin there” or, the family favorite “Bam, Bam!” He would blurt that one out while smacking one open hand on the side of his other closed fist with each “Bam!” he would say.
They had the same Father but a different Mother than Omar had and it was immediately noticeable. Henry was four years older and a lot darker than Omar was and when they hung out together, he was often mistaken a lot for Omar’s close friend or a distant cousin. Short and chubby with small stubbles of black curly hair on the front his chin. He had a tendency to wear off the wall clothes that either didn’t match or they were all one color. To this day, Kabe could remember him wearing an all purple sweat suit, looking like the purple Ronald McDonald Character’s from the commercials, or the day he had one long sock and one short sock on at the same time, and actually wore it like that when they walked through the mall together.
Both Kabe and Omar were beat, having attempted with no avail to get back into the abandon house, just a few blocks away and ended up being chased away by the neighbor’s pit bull. Henry had come in not forty five minutes after they had returned.
“Did you happen to run into Bannon?” Omar asked. “I’ve been tryin to get ahold of him for about three days now. He was supposed to stop by yesterday around 2:00 and never did. That fucker only thinks of numero uno and no one else. Once he’s happy, fuck everyone else.” “So you didn’t have any luck?” Omar replied. “No… I have a little dab outta my own batch, enough for a couple hitters that’s about it.” Henry yawned and stretched his short arms in the air. “Oh man I’m dead tired, I can barely sit here without closing my eyes, I’m gonna fall out real soon.” He began to rub his eyes.
“Are you ready for this one? I was sittin there and…the other day Van, you know Van don’t you? That tall bunyan looking fucker.” “Van…Poppy?” Kabe questioned, without even knowing anyone by that name. “Nooo. You know, he went to Eagle Point, graduated in 79.”
“No dude that doesn’t ring a bell at all.” Kabe responded. “Well either way, Van Walker and ‘Boots’ were just so happening to be walkin right in my direction over at the mall Monday, caught me off guard, but I heard someone call my name and it startled me, first I thought who do I owe money to this time.” He giggled. “So I barley recognized who he was at first, cause it looked like he had put on about 50 pounds or so, but behind the triple chins I was able to distinguish who he was…”
“Wait. Weren’t you with Katrina on Monday?” Omar said to him lowering his brow. “Yeah, we was fightin like cats and dogs the other night till 1:00 in the morning." He hung his head. "I was sittin there and she wants to go out at all hours of the night, I told her I had ten dollars to my name until my check comes in Tuesday and she flipped of gourd.” His eyes stared off into the distance as he talked from one subject to the next.
“So because you chose to stay home last night and save money you guys fought half the night?” Kabe said puzzled. “Chh…” Henry said spitting. “A damn near knock down drag out fight…then she leaves me this letter early the next morning telling me she’s leavin me.”
“Leavin you, over ten dollars? Dude…if she is going to fuss about ten fuckin dollars and wants to leave a relationship over it then she’s not worth the ten dollars you had in your pocket.” Kabe said standing up, as he stood the map they had found earlier that evening had fallen out of his yellow shirt pocket to the floor. “Whoa!” Henry leaned even further forward. “You dropped something.”
“Yeah Omar and I stumbled across this map, or whatever it is and wasn’t sure what to do with it.” Kabe handed it to Henry. He observed it glancing back and forth in-between it and the boxing match on T.V. “Oh yeah that inkblot, I’ll tell you right now that’s McKinley Park.” Omar and Kabe look at each other. “How the hell do you know that?” They both said in unison. “Look!” Henry said pointing at it. “See this long line here?” “Yeah.” Both said again in harmony. “That’s the Mississippi. You see this other squiggly line here. That’s Harbinger creek. You know Harbinger Hill Cemetery?”
“Yeah, over there across from the foundry.” Kabe answered. “Well that’s not on this, it must have been made well before that was built there. But this…this here.” He pointed to the small smears that Kabe nor could Omar distinguish what they were earlier that night. “Those there are headstone marking’s, I can tell by the drawing of the angel here.” He pushed harder on the paper pointing it out. “Now I know for sure this is old because that angel hasn’t been there for a while. The line runs directly along the cemetery here.” He followed it with his finger, showing them both. “All the way down through McKinley Woods and that’s the park just passed the inkblot there.” He said slamming his finger where he assumed the park to be. He was quite confident about it though. That was the thing with Henry, he was a talker and sometimes a bullshitter but he absorbs information like a sponge. All though Kabe had his doubts, Omar’s body language was evident that every word that came out of Henry’s mouth had been correct.
“Maybe you guys were too young than to remember, But don’t you remember the story of Kemper Haus?” Henry said to them, pushing stop on his VCR remote and shutting off the T.V. Kabe and Omar didn’t respond but Henry could tell by their expression that they had no clue. “What about the black angel of death statue?” Henry points to the drawn angel on the map. “This, This right here is the black angel…I’m tellin ya. The story was, if you crossed the path of the black angel statue, you had to do something bad to it, or something bad would happen to you. My friend and I witness it firsthand growing up.” His eyes looked left towards his temple, gathering his unending data. “That was how ‘Boots’ busted his knee up back in the day. You probably don’t remember Omar do you? We were all riding our bikes through the cemetery one day after school and we all had crossed by the statue. Me, Kevin and Boots,” He counted out with his fingers. “I spit at it, and Kevin threw a rock at it. Boots, well he was skeptic and refused to do anything to it. Well, I shit you not, about a quarter of the way riding home the front tire of his bike popped of and he fell face first down on the concrete.”
“That could have just been a coincidence though.” Kabe said with a smirk. “No!..Listen to me, Kemper Haus,” Henry leaned in even further deep in discussion. “Who is Kemper Haus?” Omar asked. Henry’s eyes widened, his jaw broadened and he leaned in even further. “Supposedly the story goes back 20 plus years or so. The guy had come up missing in 66 or 67, I think. I heard it from Uncle John; he worked down at United Railroad across from the old Harvester on the border between Rock Island and Moline.” Henry winged his arm behind him pointing in the direction of the railroad. “He told me that a man named Kemper Haus, was found by two construction workers as they were digging the end of the drainage pipe that ran out down into the Mississippi through the slough. I think he said they found him during the hot summer of 1972.”
“Dude, you’re making this shit up.” Kabe said rolling his eyes. “No I’m fuckin as serious as hell man; you know I would not lie about this shit. Ask Omar. The man they found was said to have been seen walking around the Harbinger Hill Cemetery just days before his disappearance. Two civil engineers found him stuffed…” He stood up. “Are you listening, stuffed behind the curvature of the concrete wall of the sewer tunnel right at the bottom. His eyes had been ripped from his skull and his teeth, his teeth were all pulled from his mouth.” “What?” Kabe said in disbelief. “Dude, they said the guys face was sunken in like his skull had been crushed and his testicles were shoved down his throat.” He sat back down and continued. “That’s why they had removed the black angel statue, that fuckin story right there. I’m tellin ya, man. They ripped the statue up from the ground and replaced it with those white, ivory praying hands.”
“Oh, I know where you’re talkin about.” Kabe said. “I walked passed there tons of times, hell, a couple times sat there and had a cigarette on the way home from school.” “Yes, those praying hands weren’t always there, when they pulled the black angel out, from what I had heard, they destroyed it by crushing it at E&J junkyard with a car masher.” Henry with a little twinkle in his eye and excitement in his voice, stood back up, raising his arms. “Listen to me Omar; I’m telling ya, I know what I’m talking about here. You, me and Kabe here, should make some torches and walk down the drainage pipe that leads to the sylvan slough. I think the opening to get in is atop of 7th Avenue hill, in through McKinley Park Woods.”
“Are you fuckin nuts? Torches? Why not just bring a couple flashlights instead?” Kabe said shrugging his shoulders. “Bring a flashlight if you want, I’ll make myself my own light with a homemade torch.” Henry was smiling from ear to ear. “What are you seven, bro?” Omar replied laughing. “Come on guys, I’m tellin you, this inkblot here, is right fuckin smack dab where the sewer tunnel is. I know these parts, trust me. Let’s see what this map thingy here is all about. Bam, Bam!” He slapped his open hand on his other closed fist with each ‘bam’ spoken.
“Dude, its 6:45 in the morning let’s get some rest first, I’m tired as hell right now.” Kabe said yawning. “Well, no fuckin shit, lets meet up tonight around sevenish or so, I’m off work and neither of you guys have anything better to do. Do ya?” Henry and Omar yawned in a chain reaction.
“I want to see what this inkblot thing is all about.” He said. “Who knows, maybe we’ll run into the ghost of Kemper Haus.” He laughed.
By Michael Mowder, Jr. 2002-2003