Agents Fecund and Legerdemain and Operator Cross are called away from their regular gym session to meet with their handler, Agent Grady. As per their usual, Cross is punctual if not early, followed by Legerdemain who is 2.5 minutes late and shares a familiar wink with Fecund, who is parked in the hall finishing a sandwich and 5 minutes late.
Grady has been dealing with complications re: a certain recruitment mission down in Nashville, and while the strain shows a bit, everyone is too polite to mention anything. The mission is to investigate the last known location of Agency informant, Henry Graham, a plant in an amateur paranormal investigative squad that went missing 5 days ago. The squad had been excited to explore the renowned “Murder House of Smallton,” located at 123 Westing St. in Smallton, Indiana.
The team gears up with all the necessary equipment that the Agency deems useful for punching ghosts and heads out in a typical Agency rustbox of a car. There’s no pressing need to hurry in their opinion, so they take a few rest stops and visit some roadside attractions where Legerdemain and Cross take it upon themselves to poke fun at Fecund’s age.
The infamous Murder House of Smallton isn’t hard to find. Its cute, grey exterior belies how many lives have been lost (or taken!) within its walls. Built in 1952 (not as old as Fecund), the house contains 4 bedrooms and an impressive 6 bathrooms, and is currently for sale by Reynolds Realty for $13,000. Some online digging by Fecund begins to reveal the tragic history of its former inhabitants: The house was unoccupied from 1997-2007, after which every family who has inhabited the house has had at least one death- predominantly caused by falling. The most shocking incident occurred in 2010, when a 16 year old varsity soccer player killed his entire family before also killing himself. Most recently, the infant of a happy couple died of SIDS, the wife later drowned herself, and the husband fell down the stairs to his death.
Still looking forward to punching ghosts, the team is unsurprised to see a blue van marked “Callahan’s Paranormal Investigations” in the driveway. It is unlocked and contains an array of amateur paranormal sleuthing equipment and some construction materials (representing the squad’s day job). Fecund calls Reynolds Realty and introduces himself as “Joey Malone,” passing through the area with his newly-wedded niece and nephew-in-law, Gillian and Andrew “Drew” Winthrop. Sandra of Reynolds Realty is more than happy to give the newlyweds a tour in an hour. In preparation for her arrival, Cross and Fecund go back to the van and help themselves to a saws-all, sledgehammer, and bag of rock salt before parking the van down the street. A walk around the property reveals nothing terribly out of the ordinary, except extension cords can be seen through the windows as well as what appears to be a large hole in the drywall.
Sandra arrives and is immediately overcome by ‘Uncle Joey’s’ down-to-earth charm, while ‘Drew’ and ‘Gillian’ introduce themselves as a high school teacher and gymnastics coach, respectively (yes, they’re THAT couple). As the tour commences and Sandra lets everyone in, she demonstrates an admirable poker face when she tries to explain away the extension cords and hole in the wall as electrical work. A more thorough inspection of the hole reveals someone was very intent on reaching one of the support beams and attacked it with both an axe and a saws-all. The tour proceeds, and Sandra is visibly rattled to discover multiple holes in the walls of the first floor, all of which lead to support beams. The ‘newlyweds’ play along while Uncle Joey takes a load off in the living room and discreetly forces a window to fake a past B&E. The house is fully furnished, but not even Sandra expects to find the minivan and smaller sedan of the previous occupants still in the garage and obstructing easy access to the basement. Uncle Joey reveals he is in fact a detective from Indianapolis and would be happy to look around the rest of the house to make sure no intruders are present. Sandra acquiesces and goes to sit in her car while the team makes a beeline for the basement. The stairs are unusually treacherous, but everyone makes it down them without injury. The finished, 1-room basement would appear perfectly normal with a workbench and stacked storage boxes, if it weren’t for the strong smell of gasoline from a pile of gas cans in the middle of the floor, and the completely bare back wall sporting a small set of stairs to a 4 foot squared metal door.
Returning upstairs to Sandra, Uncle Joey explains the house seems empty now, but he’ll have a word with the boys down at the station and get things cleared up. Drew and Gillian are still interested in the house, and reschedule the remainder of the tour 2 days from now, at 3pm. Gillian/Legerdemain easily palms the housekey as Sandra takes her leave. They wave a pleasant farewell to her as she drives away before quickly grabbing their gear and heading back inside.
Now without civilian supervision/witnesses, Fecund’s first investigative act is to smack the severed support column exposed in the garage hard enough to dislodge it. The ceiling shakes and sags and the house belatedly groans in an abnormal manner, spiking on the extrantural sensor Cross is helpfully pointing at things. The Ghostpunchers unanimously agree that this was a premature path of inquiry and move on. With the structural damage to multiple support columns, everyone is hesitant about Fecund exploring the second floor. Instead, Fecund focuses on dispersing his consciousness via spores throughout the house while Legerdemain and Cross take the second floor. Fecund locates a cold spot by the first hole in the wall, and notices that the gash in the wood left by an axe seems to be slowly repairing itself. Upstairs, it’s apparent that the missing paranormal squad spent or was preparing to spend the night in 3 of the bedrooms, but have left no physical evidence of their whereabouts. Cross loses Legerdemain’s rigged coin toss over who gets to go first through the attic trapdoor, and is thus the one to haul himself up into the stuffy crawlspace. At first glance, the boxes appear perfectly normal and contain photos, drawings, toys, and clothes. Behind them, however, piles of clothes, drawings, and journals have been strewn about. Behind one such pile, Cross finds a tangled mess of electrical ghosthunting equipment mixed up with a few hoodies. He starts passing these down to Legerdemain, along with whatever journals and drawings come to hand.
In the meantime, Fecund has first been subjected to the tantalizing smell of fresh chocolate chip cookies from the kitchen, only to have the scent vanish as soon as his foot touches the kitchen tiles. Secondly, he realized a time dilation exists between the first and second floors. This is confirmed when Legerdemain’s and Cross’s watches show they have been upstairs for less than fifteen minutes, while Fecund’s watch shows they were gone for well over a half hour. Largely unimpressed by the house’s shenaniagns and wondering when they will get a chance to live up to their team name, the group tackles the haul from the attic. Fecund pores over the books retrieved, while Cross and Lej fetch fresh batteries from the paranormal van so they can boot up and review the logs from the cameras, audio recorder, and laptop they found.
The books consist of a 10 year old girl’s diary, a business log, and a woman’s personal journal. The contents of all of them are unremarkable until the last month each was used, where each owner remarks upon feeling constant fear and unease, as though they were being watched. (And everyone hates the basement and its creepy door.) Fecund draws attention to the fact that none of the journals or drawings depict sightings of spectral figures or anything that would indicate a typical haunting at work.
The 3 video cameras yield silent visuals of the kitchen, upstairs hall, and basement. The first two yield typical spooky fare- long periods of nothing punctuated by cabinet and bedroom doors opening and closing on their own. The basement camera has a similarly boring span of inactivity, until it doesn’t. The lights set up in the basement suddenly go out, but the camera stays on, revealing 3 figures with flashlights come down the stairs. They make their way to the circuit breakers, apparently conversing animatedly amongst themselves, and as one begins to flip breaker switches, they suddenly stiffen and begin convulsing. The other 2 look on in brief horror, cut short when they also convulse. Eventually, all three hit the floor and are unmoving when the camera finally ceases recording in a flare of distortion and static. At about the same time, the other two cameras shake and lift up, see only distorted static momentarily which clears to reveal they have fallen over in the attic, where they record until their batteries die.
The laptop belonged to the missing-now-presumed-deceased Henry Graham, and contains his paranormal blog. In it, he expresses his excitement over being able to investigate the infamous Murder House of Smallton. His excitement is tempered by a healthy dose of frustration over a work issue that held him up. However, his 3 teammates went ahead and got everything set up and will catch him up to speed upon his arrival. But no one meets him at the house, through which he wanders around for a bit and likes the feel of, until he gets down to the basement to find the corpses of his colleagues. Henry’s notes begin to ramble, as he stresses that he has yet to see anything , and that “the door is gone, the door is gone is gone the door is gone.”
At that, the Ghostpunchers share a Look and immediately check the status of the front door. It is present, but the knob comes clean off in Fecund’s hand with no resistance. The glass doors at the back have suddenly become punch- and bullet-resistant, and everyone takes turns explaining to the Murder House that this is a Very Bad Idea. Content to give the Murder House a little bit of time to consider its life choices, the group check out the audio logs left behind. There appears to be nothing unexpected on them; sounds like children laughing and the like that no one heard at the time of recording, and the house answering the spoken question of “Do you have anything you want to say?” with the same question in the voice of one of speaker’s teammates.
Seeing that the Murder House has decided not to reinstall methods of egress, the Ghostpunchers head back to the basement. En route, the Murder House gets a bit frisky with Fecund, first giving way under his foot and then constricting around his leg, followed up by tilting the floor with the intent to roll the now-permanently-locked-but-still-in-neutral minivan over him. Lej and Cross slow the progress of the minivan long enough to give Fecund the time he needs to punch his way through the garage floor to a 3-point landing in the basement. Cross takes the stairs down at speed, while Lej prefers the more-stable mode of locomotion known as “the butt-scooch.” There’s not much debate over the creepy metal door that they wrench open to see a crawlspace with a floor and ceiling but no walls. In a display of premeditated spite, Fecund douses himself with gasoline before hopping up into the crawlspace. Lej and Cross battle carbon monoxide poisoning while Fecund hauls a mangled body out of the crawlspace. He and Lej manage to wedge the metal door open for long enough to get the corpse and Fecund out, where they then tackle the issue of getting said corpse and a barely semi-conscious but still upbeat Cross back up to the garage. A tarp, pair of handcuffs, length of garden hose, and more butt-scooching later, they gather their bearings in the garage.
Determined to gather more information before resorting to burning down the house they’re locked in, the Ghostpunchers head down the hall towards the kitchen. They barely make any progress before the house begins flinging knives in their direction, which are handily blocked by Fecund’s literal tarp-wrapped meat shield of unidentified human remains (that were almost certainly what was left of poor Henry Graham). Having obtained the group’s attention, the house begins to tilt the hallway floor up, as the kitchen floor tiles slowly begin peeling back to reveal the dark concrete Fecund recognizes from the Crawlspace to Hell. No one is thrilled about the idea of tumbling down into the maw of death that seems to be Murder House’s end hallway goal, so Fecund drops the meat shield in favor of his duffel bag and rope.Thoroughly fed up with Murder House’s antics, Lej and Cross tie themselves to one end of the rope and head upstairs to start an attic fire while Fecund ties himself to the other end and is their anchorpoint. All of the bedroom doors slam shut, leaving Lej and Cross no choice but to follow their original plan of “set fire to the damn attic and its piles of murder-trophies.” Lej gives Cross a lighter and a boost, and provides a stable platform for Cross to set the largest pile of clothes and papers alight. She even avoids a standing lamp hurled like a spear down the hall, by some means of dexterous hula-maneuver that was as amazing as it was tragically unwitnessed. Cross extricates himself from the mouth of the attic just in time to avoid the trapdoor slamming shut. As the smokey smell of approaching success wafts through the air, they head back downtairs, some faster than others with the assistance of gravity and Murder House shenanigans. (Read: Cross fell down the stairs and Lej did not. ;) )
Left to his own devices at the foot of the stairs, Fecund soon finds himself between the kitchen floor’s Maw of Death, and the ominous snapping of floorboards from the opposite end of the hall. Choosing to deal with the ominous snapping, Fecund transfers the rope from himself to the bannister, wraps himself in the tablecloth, and grabs the dining room table to overturn atop the shifting floorboards and weigh it down with himself. Under the table, the house is busy pulling back the floorboards to reveal the gas-filled basement. As the fire in the attic takes hold and the Ghostpunchers reassemble at the foot of the stairs, the house is suddenly alive with an assortment of spoken snippets of conversation in numerous voices. Preparing for what will almost certainly be the end of either the Murder House of Smallton or the existence of the Ghostpunchers, Cross attempts to leap the growing gap in the hallway floor to reach his bag of equipment and the recovered records of the house’s victims. However, the house foils the attempt and drops Cross into the basement. It’s a simple matter to get back up to the hallway with a can of gasoline as a plus one. Fecund, still wrapped in the tablecloth, takes a hold of the backs of Lej and Cross’s shirts while they lean closer to the hole to the basement, matches in hand. As soon as 2 lit matches arc towards the hole, Fecund backpedals for all he’s worth with his teammates firmly in tow. As the gasoline ignites, the Ghostpunchers are pleased to discover the patio doors have reverted to standard glass that shatter when impacted. They lie in a heap on the lawn for only a moment before putting more distance between themselves and the raging inferno that used to be the Murder House of Smallton.
As Fecund reaquaints himself with the rottweilers next door, Lej and Cross watch a number of humanoid shadow shapes form outside the fire. Always ready, the 3 Ghostpunchers don their unique knuckledusters: yew, meteoric iron, and silver rosary. The assortment and number of shadows indicate they are the spiritual remains of the house’s victims, so the Ghostpunchers apologize en masse for the fate of the victims and that they were unable to save any, but they’re free to move on. With that, the shadows begin to fade away peacefully. One shape steps forward with outstretched hand, radiating pain and confusion, and Fecund steps to meet it and punch it smartly through its shadowy sternum, releasing it from the grip of the Murder House. It, too, fades away, leaving the Ghostpunchers with a final feeling of gratitude.
As the sirens of firetrucks draw nearer, Agency weaponry disappears. The Indianapolis detective’s badge of good ol’ Joey Malone appears in Fecund’s hand, accompanied by a wink and a grin, while Gillian and Drew Winthrop share a chuckle.