The Story Behind the Story | A House of Sorrow & Pain

The story itself is:

One of my followers/readers—Sarah—shared a picture of a haunted-looking house and posed the question: Would you spend the night in one?

It reminded me of something I experienced many years ago in Italy. I shared a bit about that with Sarah and others, who thought it fascinating and worth writing into a complete story. I did, but here is the story behind the story:

As I frequently did overseas, I explored on my own. Night had fallen, and I sat at an outdoor café drinking wine and getting pleasantly buzzed when a voice behind me said: “They follow the ships.….”

I turned, and it was a woman. The scene I describe in the story about what she said in disdain about the other women, how she looked—god, how she looked, I can still remember—and her invitation… is (was then) real. We climbed on my rented Vespa, and I followed her directions miles out of town. We stopped at the entrance of a crumbling manor (as described). We entered a large courtyard and sat at an old fountain for a while and some… you know… (no biting, at least not the kind in the story).

She told me the house had been a brothel, abandoned for years but believed to be haunted. And about what she called the ‘ladies of the sorrows and pain’ who worked there. We walked to the front entry. She stepped inside and beckoned. Inside I saw what had once been a beautiful foyer and grand stairway. I walked to it and took six or seven steps up. Each one moaned… creeping the shit out of me. I turned to look for the girl to see if she was following, and she wasn’t there. As my back turned to the higher steps, something or someone ran a cold hand down the back of my neck and across my shoulder. A caress. I literally jumped down the steps and headed out the door.

Outside I looked for the girl but never saw her again.

I got on my Vespa and headed back to town. I asked about the place at the café where I’d been drinking. I was told it had been a brothel that catered to Nazi officers in WWII and then switched to welcome Americans as they kicked out the Nazis. And one night, in 1948, someone killed all nine women working there. The bartender talked of men that had gone missing in that area.

That dormant memory stuck in my mind for years, and Sarah’s question woke it up. And so, a story was born.

A HOUSE OF SORROW AND PAIN (2022 cover) Short Fiction by Dennis