So last night Scott and I watched the bulk of "Amityville Horror" compliments of Comcast's OnDemand - which is actually pretty cool - and it left both of us feeling a weird, vague uneasy discomfort... crummy way to describe that but it's all I've got till I get a few more cups of coffee down. And it reminded me of one of our earliest weighty conversations, way back when the only place that was ours was his black Dodge pickup out on the plains where houses and a Wal-mart now stand. (Yeah, it was just over a year ago. Development happens fast 'round here.) We sat till the wee hours of the morning once in that sacred place, talking about ghosts and poltergeists and other weird presences, and what struck me that morning was how comfortable I felt letting go of what I've always told myself I believe, feeling safety in the collective unknown and being able to explore those questions.
Those of you familiar with me know I'm an agnostic, but also one of those agnostics that doesn't spend much time trying to figure it out. I joke about reincarnation, ghosts, possession, and so forth, along with all the rest of the stuff I joke about, appropriate or not. But 'ghost talk' till that night had been reserved for sleepover stories and spooky campfires, and it still unsettles me a bit to think of Scott and me, two of the most rational, practical, concrete thinking people I know (note, I did not say non-impulsive, responsible, or follow-through-ish, so get off my case already...) and the things we've seen/felt/believed. A couple of examples, to kick off the Halloween spirit.
Next Door The house next door to the one my parents live in (the one I grew up in) is the house my Grandpa and Grandma lived in when they lived in Soda. Mom and Dad bought the house from Grandpa & Grandma, and have rented it out for a number of years (to a series of folks who've taken advantage of their flexibility and generosity, in my opinion - but that's for another post). When I was younger, and I'm talking junior high and high school age here, the family who lived there were actually great people, a guy that worked for my dad and kids that were friends of mine and Brian's over the years. Normal people. They spoke anecdotally of weird happenings in the house, things like appliances turning themselves on, things flying through the air unprovoked - that kind of thing. The kind of thing that's easily written off as the shenanigans of rambunctious pre-teen boys. Nobody put much stock in those stories - at least nobody from our side of the fence.
One day, not long after they moved out, I was helping mom and dad clean up the house and get it ready to re-rent. The house itself is, or had been at one time, a fantastic big Victorian, 4-bedroom number with a big yard, huge cottonwood trees out front, a great parlor room, a woodburning stove, a cellar, a few hidden storage areas, and an old clawfoot tub in the bathroom. And a wrought-iron fence along the sidewalk. (In retrospect, it's a perfect haunted house.) The upstairs was where three of the bedrooms were, and they were tiny with sloping floors and wallpaper that peeled at the ceiling and corners. And those rooms always had given me the willies, though I'd never really given a name or much conscious thought to it. Connecting the three bedrooms was a common living area that opened out onto the staircase - also a little dark and slanted. It was in this room that I had the first conscious brush with that dark something that terrifies me to this day.
I was probably about 14, and I was vacuuming. Nothing spooky about that, just vacuuming the rust/brown shag carpet in that common living area and paying attention not to back up too far and fall down the stairs. And then I felt it. I didn't physically feel it, didn't feel or hear or see anything different then - no whoosh of cold air, no eerie noises or voices, no shimmery apparition before me - but I was no longer alone in the room. There was someone or something there with me, and it wanted me out. It was dark, malevolent, as evil a presence as I could imagine, bony fingers wrapping around the base of my soul and shoving - I whirled around and of course there was no one there. I shut off the vacuum and listened for a few terrified seconds, but heard nothing, no mischievous footsteps retreating down the stairs. But the darkness was still with me and shoved again. I dropped the vacuum handle to the floor, spun and ran down the stairs as fast as my feet could carry me, out the front door and sprinted across the yard to home. I have no idea what that was, but I can still feel it when I think about that day, and it terrifies the shit out of me. I haven't been back in that house alone since.
Scott's Hallway Ghost Scott's story that night involved an apartment he'd lived in, in Michigan I believe, a good number of years ago. (Every time he talks about this, his whole body prickles with goosebumps, and he's not easily spooked.) In the interest of historical accuracy, and because the man can flat out spin a yarn, I'm going to implore him to please try on his blogging shoes and write it himself. Please, sweetie?
The Enders Ghost For any of you familiar with Soda Springs, you'll recall the Enders Hotel. It's a turn-of-the-century hotel, which was pretty run-down and crummy for most of my childhood, until a chap named Rex Maughan struck it rich and decided to restore the place to his version of its original splendor. The summer after the renovation was complete, they did a bunch of promotional stuff and had daily tours of the rooms. I was in high school - and I'd never been upstairs in the hotel when it was a dive, but had spent a good chunk of time downstairs in the Cafe, where my grandma had worked for a while when I was little.
I don't remember much about the tour, but what I do remember was making my way up a narrow staircase in the July heat, with ten or fifteen other people in an un-air-conditioned upper level of the hotel. Something cold came down the stairs and through me - nobody else seemed to notice a thing, but I was cold and goosebumpy and shaken until I'd been back outside for some time.
The Guestroom on Fossil The house on Fossil Drive, the second home Kevin and I owned together, was a nice starter house for our family. Not huge, but big enough, with two bedrooms upstairs and a third downstairs on the garden level. When we moved in, we just had Hayley, so her bedroom was naturally the one upstairs next to ours (and we chose to keep both kids upstairs after we had Kyle, planning eventually to move Hayley downstairs to her own room). For that time, we used the downstairs bedroom as an office/computer room, a guestroom, and a playroom for the kids. Hayley didn't spend a lot of time in that room, though I did and can't say I ever felt anything out of the ordinary about it. Kevin never said anything negative about the room, but didn't spend a ton of time in there either. Scott tells me he hated that room from the first time he saw it, but he couldn't say why...
Dad recounts a story about taking a nap in that room one afternoon when they were visiting. He says he was somewhere between sleep and wake, and was aware of what he thought was Mom sitting down on the edge of the bed, as if to wake him up. He says he opened his eyes, and there was nobody there but he could still feel somebody sitting there next to him. (For those who know my Dad, you'll agree he's also one of those rational, concrete people who doesn't go spouting sensational stories). Creepy.
Okay, blogosphere. Your turn. I'm interested to see what kind of experiences anybody out there has had along these lines. Post 'em as a comment, or e-mail 'em to me and I'll post 'em for you... This should be interesting. And it may well interfere with my sleep.