July 4th, 2012
I first sensed something odd Memorial Day weekend. It was Sunday, and The Rock and the kids spent the day at a friend’s picnic while I caught up on work at home. Around five or so, I put the computer away and collapsed on the couch to clear my head. I’m not sure what first caught my attention, but the hallway directly in front of me, the stretch of floor leading to the kitchen, seemed to flutter for a brief second. I lifted my head to look expecting to see — a bird? A fly? Carol Anne? — and instead, shadows threw themselves at the red wall, which was nothing new given the trees waving in the windows behind me. Despite my worst and best imaginings, all looked like it always had this time of early summer evening. The sun shone bright enough that nothing seemed dastardly or even remotely spooky, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that a something lurked in the hall. I caught the proverbial chill with the requisite hair standing on end for milliseconds and then turned my eyes back to whatever meaningless program blared from the TV.
The sense of a weight, or a mass taking up space, or charging ions flitting in the hall continued to occupy me all night until a few hours later when my family arrived home. After hello snuggles and snotty fits exacerbated by too much chlorine and too many hot dogs, The Rock and I put the reluctantly tired girls to bed and afterwards, lounged on the couch to catch up on the day. By then, I’d quite forgotten the shuddering presence in the hall and listened as my husband filled me on our friends’ lives and how towering everyone’s kids had grown in one short year. Probably five minutes went by of spousal small talk when we both heard a loud noise — not really a crash or a clang — but a disconcerting alert that something had fallen on the floor and hard. It sounded to me as if it had come from upstairs but while I looked up, The Rock ran into the kitchen and said to no one specifically, “What are you doing?”
I remember feeling annoyed; bothered that he got the impetus of the noise so wrong when it obviously originated from upstairs and was probably the children screwing around after dark. “It came from upstairs!” I shouted while he continued to search the kitchen and its nooks and crannies.
When he emerged from his investigation, I knew something was off. He looked visibly freaked, and continued to look at the hall spilling into the kitchen as he told me he absolutely, positively saw what he thought was a small child dart into the space by the refrigerator. He believed it was one of our girls, but when I pointed out that we are in full view of the staircase and would surely have seen them come downstairs, he admitted he didn’t know what he’d seen, but it was shadowy, dark, and mobile.
I don’t often see my practical, black-and-white husband stumped. The last time it happened, when a ball mysteriously bounced down our stairs years ago, it took him weeks until he could admit he lacked an explanation for the phenomenon. We still can’t shed light on what happened then, although we certainly tried, even after a string of strange occurrences followed after that ball appeared out of nowhere to plonk slowly from the second to first floor. This time though, he immediately chalked the sighting up to the unexplained, perhaps because this kind of thing had been happening off and on since we’d been together.
I told him what I’d experienced a few hours before and we hemmed and hawed over possible non-ghostly scenarios, which involved a hypothesis of rapid crazy onset, and eventually, we abandoned hope of figuring out the shadow. Not long after, my husband fell asleep on the couch and I, much too scared to sleep at the scene of the paranormal crime, retired to our bedroom. The dreams came quickly. I know because I woke up an hour later to find my daughter in our bed and a bucket-full of nightmares had already appeared behind my eyes. I snuggled up to Toots and fell back asleep to the dreams, the kind where you think you’re awake but you’re not, and where you scream hoping someone will hear you and shake you from the half-sleep land that you can’t escape. Writing this now, the most I can remember from that night are the faces that popped up behind windows and in closets and peeking from halls.
The morning brought more exhaustion. My husband tromped upstairs early and collapsed on the bed. “I had the worst dreams last night,” he told me. “Those horrible ones where you can’t wake up.”
I told him I’d had the same dreams and we again pondered the significance. Maybe bad food? An oncoming flu? A gas leak? We’ve been living in this house since 2009, knew the original owners – no one dead – and hadn’t seen anything strange or untoward in any of the home’s rooms for more than three years. As I’m wont to do, I plumbed my brain for any thing I could have done to invite a spirit into my space. I’d long sworn off Ouija boards, I don’t ghost hunt, and I’ve never been a “sensitive” often despite wishing I could sense my mom’s presence from beyond the grave. That’s just a wish, though, and all it’s ever been. Plus, this energy we’d been sensing doesn’t feel maternal or…warm.
The day went on without reasons. Our house remained lit during the day with sunshine pouring into our vast network of windows, the kids frolicked and gallivanted, and our normal routine unfurled. There is nothing wrong here. Nothing wrong here. I kept repeating it like the “I love Gods” I’d always said in my head to repel horribleness, or the myriad of crosses I’d etch in shower steam as a child to scare the vampires I believed lurked outside the door. It certainly seemed true; there was nothing sinister in my home. Other than an isolated incident or two, I didn’t feel prickly or tingly or subject to attic thunks and dogs barking at nothing. Everything was fine, everything was fine.
The day proceeded, and I went to bed early. Again, I woke amidst dreams. I looked toward the mirrored closet doors in front of me and for the second time, saw a flutter, a movement, a ripple. There was nothing specific, not a manifestation or a figure, just a conviction that something over there, in front of me; was claiming space, and existed. In truth, it felt like a lot of somethings, dark matter splintered into writhing shadow, and so I did what I’d seen done on Ghost Hunters countless times before: I screamed in my head, “Get out! You’re not welcome here! GET OUT!” Even with all my energy behind those words, I couldn’t tell if it worked. The feeling of heaviness didn’t leave, but the shadows did.
For the rest of the night, I kept my glasses on, just in case. I dreaded the kids going to school, my husband leaving for work, my going to take a shower, alone, just steps from that mirror and the somethings. I’d never felt that way in this house. It’d always seemed friendly and welcoming, and I loathed these new invaders; unless of course I was crazy? My imagination is legend and I’d been extra tired lately, so maybe that combination brewed paranoia? I certainly hoped so.
After breakfast, I packed up my laptop and vowed to stay out of the house until someone was in it with me. Even with the sunshine streaming through the windows in every room, and every door open, and the sound of a lawn mower next door, I couldn’t bear to be in my own home. It no longer felt right, light, and unencumbered. I considered a cleansing or a prayer service, or a psychic discovery. However, this was all in my head, right? Of course it was. I never saw anything substantial – just vague movement; didn’t hear anything other than a few night crashes and attic thunks, and didn’t feel threatened per se, just…pressed upon.
Fortunately, my words and explanations worked. After those miasmic two nights, the whatever (free-floating anxiety made manifest?) vacated the premises. I remained home alone during the day again, I didn’t see mirror will-o-wisps, the kitchen hall stayed free and clear. Other than a morning when my husband recounted another dream where he felt as if his spirit were being sucked from his body, only to return with an audible snap!, there was nothing. It seemed plausible when we discovered that my husband’s friend had succumbed to cancer that same evening and might have stopped by to say goodbye. Certainly plausible. This was the mind space in which we found ourselves – in which visiting friendly spirits seemed preferable to the alternative.
Like I said, everything returned to normal.
I know you know there’s a “but.” So there is, because exactly one month after the first hallway sighting, I again heard a clanging night crash. This time, my husband didn’t react as he usually did, no getting up to investigate, no baffled expression, no acknowledgment of the sound whatsoever. I made a passing remark that it was one month to the day of the last unexplained noise, and he responded simply, “This has been going on all month,” and then, “It never stopped.”
I gaped. “Where was I?” A question not so easily answered I suppose, as my children have never heard these noises either, despite crashes loud enough to be heard from the outside. Yet I, the person who first felt the disturbance in the domestic force, was spared from its paranormality just like them, and for a month. Was it my plea to stop? Did I shut down my internal spirit sensor? What does it mean that my husband is privy to the anomalies and I’m not?
I continue to feel unencumbered in the house, but needed to download the Ghost Radar* app to be sure. If there were spirits flitting about, I needed to know they were there because nothing is worse than carrying ghosts around and not knowing it. I brought my phone upstairs to test the ghost-sensing functionality, positioning myself in front of the very same mirror where I’d seen…what I had or hadn’t seen. The radar spun, and the numbers fluctuated, and the first word that appeared on the EVP screen was “death.”
This is where we find ourselves today.
(*I must tell you that I put nearly zero stock in the Ghost Radar. Its findings seem too random and made to play on want-to-believers, but for now, it’s all I got.)