In the spirit of the season and all things that go bump on a Halloween night, I wish to share one of my own personal ghost stories.
It all began simply, with a house. At first glance it was intriguing, and completely run down. Overgrown bushes and trees obscured the floor to ceiling windows at the front of the house. Built in 1979, it epitomized its somewhat tacky and bold era. Stone clad sides and entryway, large, carved double doors and an opulent three car garage impressed the onlooker. Even in its semi-dilapidated state you could see the potential.
Inside was even worse. The roof had gone bad years before and a gaping six foot hole marred the otherwise inviting dining room. Gold and silver foil wallpaper hung in tatters in the entrance and the sliding glass door leading to the huge covered patio hung crookedly from the frame. Hideous gold fringe hung in nearly every window and metallic wallpapers and gold-veined mirrors seemed to leap from every available surface. Elvis, it seemed, did not die but moved himself and his decorator to Turlock.
A large, well laid out kitchen sported solid oak cabinets covered in green and black mold. Many of the finely crafted joints had “popped” from the excessive moisture caused by a broken water line to a missing icemaker. The carpeted floor squished as you walked, courtesy of the same icemaker. The grout on the countertops showed years of neglect though the tiles covering them were beautiful.
The wall next to the sliding glass door in the spacious family room had mushrooms, yes mushrooms, sprouting from the drywall. Burnt orange shag carpeting, covered in layers of dirt and grime, literally cracked beneath our feet. The house did have one saving grace, the beautiful double sized fireplace flanked by built in bookcases in the family room. This fireplace (and the four large bedrooms) is what sold me on the place. Despite the dirt, water and smells, I was home.
Cleaning began immediately. It took my husband, with the assistance of myself and our two young children, nearly three weeks of scraping, scrubbing, and repairing for the house to be habitable. The beauty of the place began to show through the layers of old cigarette smoke and dust. It also began to reveal to us its hidden inhabitants, those entities that silently shared our space.
It was little things at first. Noises in the night. Strange feelings in the hallway and family room. A cold spot here and there. Items missing then showing up on top of your pillow. Then the “old man” would visit. We learned from the neighbors that the original owner of the house had died in his front room watching a football game. He was revived by paramedics but later succumbed in the ambulance. It seems that this house was his pride and joy. So he didn’t leave. Every time we began a new restoration project in the house we would smell cigarette smoke – none of my family smokes. Then my daughter would tell us that the old man was sitting in the chair again. None of the rest of us ever saw him, but that wasn’t unusual. One of my daughter’s gifts is seeing the spirits around us.
He wasn’t our only visitor though. At night or in the early morning hours when all was quiet a small shuffling could be heard way down at the end of the lengthy central hallway. At first I thought we had a mouse or some other rodent. However when the kids asked me to make the shadow man stop appearing at the end of the hallway, I knew another ethereal inhabitant was about. It felt very harmless, almost protective, so I told it that it may stay in our home, but to please refrain from manifesting at the end of the hallway and scaring the bejeebers out of my kids. Kindly spirit that it was, it stopped appearing, but we could still feel its presence.
I can still recall the first time I was awakened in the middle of the night, the hackles standing at attention on the back of my neck. Some one, some thing, was standing next to my bed watching me. I could feel it. It was tall, my daughter said, about 7 feet or so. It would just stand there, watching me, she said. It really bugged the shit out of me. I don’t believe it meant to do me any harm, it was just annoying. Those nights when I just couldn’t ignore it anymore I would say out loud “Go away. I’m trying to sleep here.” Nine times out of ten it would leave. Definitely manageable, just irritating.
All of the little quirks, annoyances and eccentricities that went with the new place were manageable. You learned to work with, instead of against, our spectral housemates. We even interacted on occasion. If something went missing, we would stand in the center of the house and ask that it would be returned. A chilly breeze or a noise would indicate that the missing comb, hair ties, or pen would have been placed on our pillow or a few steps away from where we were. We talked to them like friends or roommates. Yet, there was something else in the house, something that made the other entities nervous. A being that did not feel benevolent, friendly. Instead, it felt cold, dank, old, and spiteful. And mean. Downright mean.
This was the entity that would cause a cozy reading corner to go from peaceful to panic laden in moments. Colds spots, areas of anger and agitation, smells of damp soil, a metallic odor like copper, these were its calling cards. It didn’t seem to manifest often, but when it did the entire house felt wrong. Our other visitors would seem to vacate and not return for a day or two, as if they were hiding from some evil. It never seemed to stay long, but its impact lasted for weeks.
Then one night, I was curled up in a cozy chair in the family room reading a book. The kids were in bed and the house was settling in for the night. I was totally enthralled in my very cheesy romance novel when the very air around me seemed to shift. A general eeriness descended and I suddenly realized that I was no longer alone. Raising my gaze from my book and towards the open kitchen I saw it. An emaciated being with long stringy white hair stood looking at me. A feeling of pure hatred seemed to ooze out of the being. He looked incredibly old, like it had belonged to the land way before this house was built. He was dressed in a shiny black suit that seemed to hang loosely over his skinny frame. Then he smiled showing rotting teeth. I sat, transfixed, afraid to take a breath. It then raised a bony finger at me and wagged it as if to admonish me, for what I didn’t know. I blinked, and he was gone.
Who was he? I never did find out. I just know that it didn’t want my family there, didn’t want anyone there. It was if the land had belonged to him in life and he wasn’t giving it up even in death. I do know that after the sighting we began to have some extraordinary bad luck and eventually decided to sell this house, our dream house. It was a hard decision yet once it was made it was if the house sighed in agreement. The day we moved out I took a final look back, and spotted him standing in the window, wearing that creepy, evil grin.
Those that lived in the house after we left seemed to share in the misfortune of the place. The house was bought, foreclosed on, and sold twice after we moved out. The third owner still seems to be hanging in there. I’ve often wanted to knock on the door to see if the owners have experienced any of the things we did when we were there. To perhaps go in and thumb my nose at the greedy selfish ghost who tried to frighten me away. To give it a final “up yours” before I turn and leave it to forever haunt the house on Estates Drive.