Ask my mother. She knows. The house where I spent most of my formative years was haunted. I don’t want to sound all woo-woo, but I believe there are some folks who are wired for the weird, and others who aren’t. My dad was in that latter category.
Parts of the house creeped me out for a long time before I even knew my mother had actually seen an apparition inside it. And that was really kind of strange because it wasn’t like it was an old house, something that just screamed haunted. We moved in when it was brand-spanking new.
The family room was at one end of the house at the end of a long hallway that extended almost to the opposite end. Sometimes, after my parents thought I was old enough, they’d leave me for the evening to visit friends down the street. My brothers, all older, would be off doing whatever, so it would be just me and the dog. Grinner liked to lie on the floor, positioned so she could see down the hall. Not me, not at night. Every now and then, she would lift her head with a jerk and just stare down that long, dark hallway.
“Stop it!” I’d whisper, huddled under a blanket on the couch and not really wanting to see if she actually did see something. The dog would give me that over the shoulder glance before she went back to glaring down the hallway. I peeked one night, and no lie, I saw something smoky and floating at the end of the hall. But did I say anything? Hell no. I still didn’t know Mom had actually seen someone sitting in a chair in our family room! Instead I cowered on the couch and hoped our ancient mutt would keep whatever away. She growled, but I was still more frightened of the teasing I’d get from my brothers than of whatever lurked at the end of the hall.
I was always relieved when my parents came home.
In addition to the long hallway, this house had a full basement. Early on, my parents had hired a guy laid off from the Ford Plant in Louisville to finish the basement. That was okay with me. I’d always been spooked by the wooden stairs where someone could reach through and grab my ankle. I figured once those stairs were closed in, like normal stairs should be, everything would be cool.
The problem was, even after the basement was finished, I still got spooked every time I had to go up or down those stairs. They might be carpeted and paneled and look like any other stairs, but I still ran up them like the hounds of hell were hot on my heels, and I never, ever went up or down unless the lights were on.
There was even a bedroom in the basement. My parents had added that so that every one of us kids could have our own room. My brother, Tom, lived there with his black lights, Jimi Hendrix and long hair. He was into a few other things as well, so when he told me he’d seen a pure white hand flash in front of his face one night when he fell asleep watching TV and then woke up, his credibility was just a bit suspect.
Nevertheless, it reinforced my basement phobia.
Most of the time I was okay if I was down there with someone else, or if I could stay on the far side of the basement near the fireplace and the sliding glass door. It was the stairs and the unfinished part of the basement that made my skin crawl.
I truly tried to get over it. I would force myself to go down there for things, make myself stay there, but every time, when it came time to go back up, I felt like someone hovered right behind me, breathing down my neck as I scrambled up the steps.
I have to admit, this went on into my teenage years…way into them. In fact, I believe it was about the time I was cleaning out my stuff in preparation for going away to college that the final incident happened. My mother was big into us periodically going through our junk and getting rid of what we no longer wanted.
There I sat, by myself, and old enough now to poo-poo that niggling shiver of unease, sorting old books, toys and games. By this time, I knew about the lady in the chair. I knew about the hand flashing in front of Tom’s face, but big deal—I was college ready with a year abroad already behind me. Sophisticated, intelligent, getting ready to take the journalistic world by storm.
That’s when I found the Ouija Board. Remember those things? Cue the dark creature feature type voice: “Use the pointer on the board to communicate with the other side.” Ooooohhhhhh! I’d gotten it for a birthday or Christmas or something years ago, played it a couple of times with my girlfriends down the street while we asked it stupid questions like, “Will I marry Johnny when I grow up?” then put it away and promptly forgot about it.
With a cynical chuckle, I pulled the board and the pointer out. Since no one but me would be operating it, I figured I could debunk the whole idea of someone else having pushed it. I wasn’t going to. I was simply going to rest my fingers lightly on both sides of the pointer as the instructions said. Sitting there cross-legged with the board in front of me and my fingertips just barely touching it, I inhaled and asked, “Is there anyone else down here with me?”
The damn thing moved. Not some little twitch to one side that could have been caused by a quiver in my finger. No. It jerked across the board to “yes.”
When I could finally make myself go back down to the basement again, I packed up the Ouija Board and gave it away. I have never touched one since then.
But I still wonder. Did the people who’ve lived in that house since we moved ever realize they weren’t really alone?
So, bottom line? As much of a realist as I like to believe I am, I absolutely do believe the souls of the departed are sometimes still walking among us. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Not only will it help me get rid of the shivers still turning my stomach as I recall those memories, it will enter you in a drawing for a copy of any one of my books that you choose as a pdf. I'll let the winner know on November 1st.
Hey, and while you’re at it? Check out this great Halloween blog hop!