GLYNN WASHINGTON, HOST:
Well, y'all remember aunty Rita, right? Aunty Rita - well, one day she went off gallivanting and you know how she is, won't listen to anybody. When she came back, she had a story.
RITA DANIELS, BYLINE: So at the time of the story, I'm a senior in college and I have been working my little booty off for four years. I was very sleep deprived and my adrenals were probably completely spent. So one morning I have this complete meltdown. In hysterics, I go over to my guidance counselor - the school advisor - and I announce that I am dropping out of school. And she pulls up my student records - she tells me Rita, just listen. You only have one class left to take to graduate in global perspectives. You can just go and take a trip and do this independent study and all you have to do is keep a journal. So I start doing research and I find out about this little town on the tip of Baja called Todos Santos, this desert oasis a mile off the Pacific Ocean, overlooking all these old sugarcane valleys. And I get in touch with this property manager in this little town and she speaks perfect English, and it turns out that she's like an ex-pat. I tell her that I want the cheapest rental possible and she gives me two choices. The first one is this cinderblock, concrete, one room little place, like five miles outside of town for the same price as this 10 room historic hacienda in the middle of town. This property manager explains to me that I'm coming in the off-season and so, you know, that's why the price is so great. I book a plane ticket. Like a week later, I get this little old skeleton key in the mail and a hand-drawn map of the town. And I finally arrived in this little village, ask some directions and really proud of myself because it's the first time that I've really ever used my Spanish in a real situation - izquierda - de (Spanish spoken). And so I walk up this road and I find the house and I hear this piano music and it sounds like it's coming from inside the house.
(SOUNDBITE OF PIANO MUSIC)
DANIELS: By the time I finally get the door open, the piano music is stopped. So I get in the house. There's like these old candelabras hanging from the vigas. Then there's these bookshelves with these leather bound books and it's just room after room. And I find this little note on the kitchen counter and it's from the property manager. And she's just like welcome, you know, this is how you get to a little store and here's a good place to go for tacos and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And you'll need to buy some matches or some lighters for the stove because the gas stove - you had to ignite it with something. So I walk out that night, there's these packs of little kids everywhere playing soccer in the streets and it's just all very lively. And I buy coffee for the morning and I buy this twin pack of these long-reach lighters. So I go back to my new house and I make a cup of tea and I plug this fan in and like direct it straight onto the bed because it's 11 o'clock at night and still like 95-100 degrees. And then a couple of minutes later, I realize that I can still hear the fan going but the breeze is not blowing on me. I look up, the base of the fan has been turned 90 degrees to face the wall. And I'm like what? How did that happen? And then instantly, I'm just overcome with sleep. I can't hold my eyes open anymore. It's like all I can do to flip the light off and I just fall asleep. At about four in the morning, I guess, when it's still really, really dark, I am just thrown awake. And I start to hear this click, click, click. It sounds like one of those lighters. When I wake up in the morning, I go to make a cup of coffee and that lighter, that new lighter that I just bought won't spark. I hold it up to my ear and I shake it, it's empty. Go on with my day. And I have a very, very lovely day. I wander around the town and I go to take a stroll into the ocean and I meet these local surfers and they're my age and they're really laid back. Ediberto (ph) and the other one is Ariz (ph) and they speak perfect English. I can tell these guys are maybe going to be like my new friends. Ediberto (ph) he asked me - where are you staying? You know, these guys seem cool but I'm not stupid. I'm a little hesitant to give up that information so easily. But they seem harmless and so I say oh, yeah, you know, this hacienda right in town - el Torreon. And it's like the light is weird because it's about sunset but I swear to God, it looks as though Ediberto (ph) goes completely white and he looks over at Ariz (ph) and they just immediately start speaking rapid-fire Spanish, to the point where I cannot understand a single word that they're saying. And this goes on for a couple of minutes and then they just look back at me and they're like - do you want to come with us to get some dinner? I go OK. Grab some tacos and some tequila and a few beers. They drop me off and when I'm getting out of the car they say good night and good luck. So I'm kind of laughing to myself and I get to the door and I hear this piano music again. Now, when I open the door the music just gets louder. The living room is right when you walk in and like there's a piano and the keys are just fully going.
(SOUNDBITE OF PIANO MUSIC)
DANIELS: This is not a player piano. And there's no little reel inside anywhere inside this piano. And I'm like - OK, I don't know what the hell is going on here. And I know that I've had a couple of drinks but this is weird. Within about 30 seconds, the piano stopped playing. The keys stop moving and I just went to the bedroom, turned the fan on, started reading. Then about 10 minutes - the fan wasn't blowing on me anymore. I looked over, and sure enough, the base of the fan had been turned 90 degrees and I was exhausted. Flipped the light off and I fell asleep. Well, this night, at about four in the morning, my eyelids were thrown open and I felt this presence forcing itself into my body. And I heard right next to my head, once again, that click, click, click of that freaking lighter. It was as though somebody was coming in and like sitting on top of me - a physical weight and it's very, very hot. It started at my feet and it was slowly moving up through my ankles and then to my calves and then to my knees - kind of taking over. And I didn't know what was going to happen if it got to my heart. I thought that's like where my soul was. I wouldn't call myself a religious person, even at that point in time. But I had been raised Catholic and so all I knew to do - I just got on my knees and I started saying I renounce you in the name of Jesus Christ. I renounce you in the name of Jesus Christ. I was rocking back and forth. I kept like throwing up just on the floor, right next to me. I want to laugh at myself and at the same time I'm totally crying because it was really real and it was very, very scary. Finally, there's like this little ribbon of light at the horizon line that I can see through the shutters and I'm completely exhausted because I feel like I've just fought a battle or something and there was a pounding on the door. So I was totally freaked out. And it was Ediberto (ph), my new surfer buddy from the night before, and I just grabbed him and hugged him and held him to my chest and I said I'm so glad you're here. I don't know if that is what he was expecting. But he just looked at me - he said yeah, I thought would come check on you. I kind of told him what happened and he broke the news to me that the house had been the mayor's home. The mayor's wife was this great musician - this pianist who had toured the world and she died when she was 21 years old, exactly my age, in that home, in childbirth. And she haunted the place ever since. And especially - she definitely messed with females. She was very notorious with all the locals. So I moved out and I took the little cement cinderblock shack in the dusty cactus five miles from town and I lived a little more humbly. And I still had an incredibly fabulous last semester of college.
WASHINGTON: Now, did you hear that? I want all y'all to understand, all right? All of you. If you go up in a house and some ghost starts playing on piano, you get out lickety-split, you hear me? It's a bunch of craziness. But don't fidget too much, I'm going to go get a little something to put in this flask. I'll be back in just a moment. Don't go anywhere because SNAP JUDGMENT "Campfire Tales" just got started. Stay put.
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