Story Behind the Story | The Ladies of the House of Sorrow and Pain

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

It brought back the memory of something I experienced in La Spezia, Italy when I was 21 years old. I shared a bit about that with Sarah and others and they thought it fascinating; worth writing into a full story. Which I did (the link in this post will take you to where you can read more about it), but here is the story behind the story:

When I was in the US Navy, my ship made a port visit to La Spezia, Italy and as I frequently did overseas, I explored on my own. Night was falling, and I sat at an outdoor café drinking wine. The streetlights came on, and I was getting pleasantly buzzed from the wine 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 woman, how she looked—god, how she looked, I can still remember—and her invitation are true (to take me to a place outside town, a better—more private—place than where we were). I was drunk, at first on wine then on her beauty and how she looked at me.

We climbed on my rented Vespa, and I followed her directions miles out of town. We stopped at the entrance of an old house (it was as described in the story). We entered a large courtyard and sat at the fountain for a while and some… you know… (no biting… at least not the kind I describe 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’ that worked there.

We walked to the front entry, she stepped inside and beckoned. I went in and 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… creeped the shit out of me. I turned to look for the girl, to see if she was following, and she wasn’t there.

When I had my back turned to the higher steps something/someone ran a cold hand down the back of my neck and across my shoulder. It felt like 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. At the café where I’d been drinking, I asked about the place and was told it had been a brothel that catered to Nazi officers in WWII and then switched to welcome Americans as the Nazis were kicked out. And one night, in 1948, someone killed all nine ladies that worked there. The bartender talked of men going missing in that area ever since.

That dormant memory stuck in my mind for years, and Sarah’s question woke it up. This story is the result.

 The House of Sorrow and Pain - Short Fiction by Dennis Lowery