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The Airbnb (g)Host

I'm a reasonable ghost, I think, but the Airbnb was the final straw.
I've put up with quite a bit, in my time here. I'm not quite as old as the house, of course--I know the Wikipedia page says I'm the first owner's wife, but that's actually not true, you'd be surprised how often ghosts get misidentified--but I've been in these walls for nearly a hundred years. They were eventful years, too.
The first owner's heir drank away the fortune and sold my house to cover his gambling debts. The third owner opened an opium den in my basement. The fourth owner moved back East and forgot about my house entirely. But the creditors banging on the doors, the opium smoke staining the boards, even the rats in my walls and holes in my roof--none of it was as bad as the Airbnb.
When the sixth owner sent in the restoration crew, and my house started to shine again like it had in those first days--I should have known it was too good to be true.
You see, I don't like to brag, but I'm quite skilled at my work. Effective haunting is a lot harder than people think, and I take pride in being one of the best in the county. Maybe even the state. Any spirit can inhabit a house, and fling dishes or slam doors. That's easy. But a good haunting? The kind that gets deep under their skin, makes them question their own mind, has them jumping at shadows long after they've hastily packed and put the place up for sale? The kind that makes someone flee in the night, and vow never to cross the threshold again? That's an art, and art takes time.
What am I supposed to do, when my only inhabitants are here for a weekend and never again? There's no time the lay the groundwork for a proper haunt; establishing real dread takes weeks. You start small and inconsequential, steadily escalate, draw back when they get suspicious, just long enough to make them think they'd safely imagined it. How can I do that between Friday happy hour, and Sunday morning checkout?
The answer, simply, is that I can't. If I start moving objects around or leaving doors open? They just assume it was the previous guest. Flicker the lights, creak the stairs, rattle the doors? They think it's simply broken, and that the owner doesn't maintain the house. Real fear comes from subtlety, from being sure that that painting used to face the other way, but having no real way to prove it. The Airbnb guests don't even notice a painting is there at all.
If I want to get anywhere with them, I have to skip straight to the climax, all howling winds and bleeding walls. With the right inhabitant, one you've been working with for months or years? It's perfection, it's ecstasy so brilliant that if there's some kind of heaven after all, you're not even sorry you weren't invited. But with someone you've only been haunting for a few hours? You don't have that connection, and it all feels cheap and tawdry. By the time it's over you're just embarrassed, you're almost glad they'll be gone forever by lunchtime.
Worst of all are the overnight ghost hunters with their gadgets and their TikToks. As if I were some sort of spectral golden retriever, here to do spooky tricks on command so they can boost their social media following. As if there were no art to anything at all. It's intolerable.
That's why I'm asking you to support the resolution to ban short-term rentals within city limits. Like I said, Mayor, I'm a reasonable ghost. I've been in my house a long time, and ideally I'd like to stay there. But if the Airbnb situation continues, I simply can't. I'll have to find a new house to haunt instead.
This one looks quite nice, actually. Can I count on your vote at tomorrow's city council meeting?
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, October 27th, 2022
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