Death Breath

A few seconds later, there was a deep, hollow sound from above. It was faint, and sounded like it originated from the second floor, or perhaps even as far away as the attic. I likened it to the sound of striking one of those large tanks used for home heating oil—the point being it had a slight reverberation and seemed metallic. Tense moments passed in the darkness of the murder room…

Then came one of the most shocking sounds I have ever heard. It came from the northwest corner of the room, somewhere near where the Van Winkles would have been sleeping peacefully, moments before the hatchet and butcher knife were to do their awful work. It began as a soft whistling or rasping, and was so clear that at first I thought it must be something perfectly normal. Then it grew into a deep, wheezing sound, as if fluid-filled lungs were struggling to draw one last breath. Then there was an agonizingly slow exhale…then silence.

It’s impossible to adequately describe this encounter, or how deeply it impacted us. Mrs. Van Winkle had died on the floor in a pool of her own blood within minutes of the brutal attack, and there we were 154 years later, quite possibly at the exact moment of her death, distinctly hearing what I would swear in court sounded like someone’s dying breath!