In part one of my “Living With Ghosts” blog series, I introduced the spooky old farmhouse my family moved into when I was seven. Any place with such a colorful history as that house is bound to have a few ghosts, right? Although the house was old, the wiring bad, the facilities outdated and so on and so forth, my parents moved there because they didn’t have much money and the rent was dirt cheap. With five small children to support, they thought it was a great deal. And it was…if only we didn’t have to share the place with unseen specters! Although I was only seven years old when we moved there, the place had such an impact on me that my memories are quite vivid. Some of it I wish I could forget.
Since the house had been empty for quite a while, my parents had to do some extensive cleanup and repair work to get it inhabitable. I remember my first visit to that house as if it were yesterday. My mom let me tag along with her and a friend during one of their cleaning expeditions. Their main agenda for the day was to pull several layers of old wallpaper from the walls so new wallpaper could be applied. I remember that the walls were made of wood laths covered in plaster mixed with animal hair. The stuff was crumbling from age and my parents replaced a lot of it with sheetrock (drywall). I can still recall my thoughts on the house the first time I entered it. The place was darned right gloomy. It was also quite chilly inside despite the warm spring day outside. There wasn’t a lot of lighting in the house (the wiring needed quite a bit of updating). My mom told me that the bedrooms were upstairs and that mine was the last room on the left. Although I remember feeling uncomfortable going upstairs by myself, I was eager to see my room and so up the stairs I went. The room that would become my brothers’ bedroom was at the top of the stairs to the left, my parents’ room straight ahead. There were no windows in my brothers’ room so it was quite dark in there and I had to go through their room to get to mine. The door to my future bedroom was partially open and I could see that it was lit bright with sunlight. I raced through the gloom to my future bedroom and was glad to see we had two large windows. They faced the right side of the house and the river a couple hundred yards down the hill. The room was filled with furniture (antiques!) and I remember being delighted by the mirrored dresser. It had all sorts of neat little drawers and I sat before it to explore each one.
I wasn’t in the room very long when I heard someone coming up behind me. I thought it was my mother. I turned to ask her if the dresser was going to stay in the room for us to use but no one was there. It puzzled me to find the room empty for I was sure someone had walked up behind me. Though reluctant, I went and checked out the other two bedrooms. I glanced toward the “dark room” (see Part I) but no WAY was I going to peak in there. Both bedrooms were empty. Feeling jittery but having no justification for concern, I returned to my exploration of the dresser. A few minutes later, I had the strongest feeling someone was standing right behind me and my back crawled with unease. Remember, I was only seven … I didn’t know about ghosts and had no clue why I felt as if someone was in the room with me even though I couldn’t see anyone. It frightened me beyond measure and I no longer had any desire to explore my room and the furniture within it (the room was packed with lots of old stuff!). Although I wanted to rejoin my mother, I was afraid to go through the room beyond, especially as I had to pass the dark room to do so (its entrance was a few feet to the left of my door). I figured whoever was up here with me had to be hiding in there as I’d checked everywhere else.
It was quite a quandary I found myself in for I didn’t dare to leave, I was too scared to stay and I wasn’t sure if I should be making any noise since I didn’t want to attract their attention. But then I’d made enough noise up to that point, I finally figured they already knew I was there anyway and began calling for my mother. She kept answering with a “What?” but she didn’t come up the stairs and I didn’t dare go down them. Finally, after repeating “Mom!” several times with escalating panic, my mother’s head appeared as she came up the stairs just far enough to see me (the top of the stairs was all open so you could see the last few steps from any vantage point). “What?”
Why I didn’t tell her I was scared, I don’t know, instead I asked her if I could keep the dresser. She said no, it wasn’t ours to use and before she could turn to go back downstairs, I ran to join her. Although I really wanted to explore that house, I was too afraid to do so after that. I did not feel comfortable there. And the feeling was to remain for the next seven years!
When we finally moved in, the house didn’t seem so scary with the five of us kids running through the place. My mom and dad always seemed to have company so the house was usually overrun with people. Even so, I remember feeling like someone was watching me all the danged time. I usually blamed the feeling on my brother (three years younger than me and quite the pest). I was so sure he was hiding and spying. Who else would it be? Stuff began to disappear almost right away. It was a common occurrence to have my parents complain about something they couldn’t find (they weren’t the only ones but our stuff being lost was naturally blamed on our inattention and thoughtlessness). Of course my parents blamed us kids for their lost items (sometimes we would find them, in some strange obscure place, but oftentimes we did not). I still wonder where they went? Countless times my dad gathered us together to demand we tell him where the latest missing item was “or else!”. The fact we were all punished when the culprit didn’t speak up always had us kids mad at each other for not fessing up. Of course, most of the time my poor brother “J” (I’ll just give him an initial as I haven’t asked him if he’s okay with me using his name!) was thought to be the guilty one. There was a lot of “the blame game” going on, I can tell you that! The atmosphere was, at times, quite negative. Not all the time, of course. Looking back on it, I truly believe the negative atmosphere happened when the spirits were about. We did have spells of time where they seemed to be absent. Why they came and went, who knows?
Since we put the missing stuff down to one of us (kids) being the culprit, we weren’t yet aware of the ghosts. The first year or so living there, anything out of the ordinary happening was explained away. “It’s cold in here because the walls are built solid and doesn’t allow the summer heat in (the slatted walls filled with horsehair plaster and no insulation told a different story!), the noises we sometimes heard were the house “settling” or it was one of the cats … perhaps even a mouse. What else could it be? The feeling of being watched, of not being alone…well, that was hard to explain. Sometimes I would think it was J but when I knew where he was, I didn’t know what to make of it. The doors being found open (so common an occurrence that it often went without comment), well, it HAD to be one of us kids opening those doors…right? Actually, as I grew older, if my dad got up in the morning and found a door open (meaning the front door, the cellar door or the door to the attached barn), well he usually blamed it on me because I was often the last one to bed! It boggled my mind that my dad would actually believe I could leave those doors open and head on to bed. I didn’t feel safe as it was! In fact, I often doubled checked the doors because I had so many nightmares of us being killed in our sleep! Yeah, my imagination worked overtime while living there.
My fear of that house began in earnest the night my mother went to play Bingo with a friend, leaving us kids at the house with my dad and her friend’s husband. Ranging from the ages of one to eight by this time, the five of us kids were having a grand ole time playing on the stairs that night. We were sliding down the narrow stairway on our butts, our bellies, our backs…however we could manage to do so. We were making quite a racket, I know that much. The main part of the stairway came to a small landing that then turned right (if coming down) with two more steps to the kitchen. We were confining our “slide” to the landing. Above this landing was a small window. I was too short to see out the window if standing under it. From the back of the house where the window was located, I would guess it was about seven feet up from the ground for it was higher than my dad and he is six feet tall. It was built flush with the house, no sill, no framing (I feel these facts are important, you’ll see why). My dad and his friend were sitting at the kitchen table talking … just a few feet from the stairwell entranceway (they must have been happy to have us all occupied in one place so they didn’t mind all the noise we were making). For once all five of us kids were having a good time together, no fighting, just fun. We had no worries.
I had just completed my run down the stairs and turned to start back up them when I saw my sister about four steps down from the top. She sat frozen in place, her dark brown eyes wide with fright, her mouth open in a silent scream. She was about three at the time. My two youngest brothers were on the steps behind her, laughing and playing, they were ages one and two (yeah, my mom had us all pretty close together!). My brother J was a couple steps below my sister and on his way up. He saw her strange stance and turned to see what she was looking at. He immediately began screaming in terror and turned to make a mad scramble up the stairs, practically bowling my sister over in his haste. My two youngest brothers turned to look as soon as they heard J scream and whatever was in the area above my head, they saw it too and began to scream right along with J as they scrambled after him up the stairs. I did look above me but I saw nothing. Whatever was terrifying them had to be in the window. I remember the top of my head started crawling with unease, as if a thousand spiders and just landed there! I was scared to freakin death and didn’t even know why. All I knew was that my siblings were seeing something pretty danged awful. Once my brothers started screaming, my sister found her voice and she let out the loudest, high pitched screech. That alone would make your hair stand on end!
My dad stood up and looked at me. “What’s wrong with the kids? Go get your sister.”
With my dad standing near the stairwell, I felt a little braver and so I crouched low and ran up the stairs to get her. I picked her up, her little body stiff as a board and she grabbed me as if I were saving her life. I turned then to look at the window, afraid to see what they saw. Nothing was there. As I started down the stairs to my dad, my brothers scrambled down with me, all three of them crying with fright.
My dad took my terrified sister and did his best to comfort her. It took a while to calm her down and, his patience wearing thin, he told the boys to stop their racket as well. Of course he looked to me, the oldest of the bunch, for an explanation. I had none.
Once my sister’s cries calmed to hiccups, my dad asked her again why she was scared.
“Red eyes, red eyes.” That’s all she would say and then she buried her head in his shoulder.
Now my brother J (five at the time) spoke up. “There was a monster in the window!” My other two brothers began to cry again as they repeated the word “monster” and moved closer to dad and I for protection. My dad put my sister in my arms and motioned to his friend to follow him. They grabbed a flashlight and headed out the door. The five of us kids huddled together in the kitchen and waited. I envisioned my father being eaten by this monster my siblings saw and wondered if I’d be able to save us from the same fate. Yeah, young minds! After awhile, my dad returned from his investigation. He said there was nothing outside the window that he could see. His conclusion? My sister and brothers must have seen a reflection of themselves in the window. I knew, even at eight, that such an explanation made no sense. We’d been playing on those stairs for quite a while, why hadn’t our reflections bothered us from the beginning? And seriously, what’s so danged scary about our reflections? Geez! Totally subdued and frightened, the five of us kids went into the living room to huddle together on the couch. While my dad and his friend sat back down at the kitchen table to continue their discussion (as if nothing had happened!), I asked my siblings about what they saw. We spoke quietly among ourselves, knowing my dad would get upset if he heard us talking about monsters. All four of them saw it. The two oldest were adamant that they saw a face with red eyes. My brother J said the eyes were glowing and the face was scary.
Even though my dad didn’t find the “monster” we all knew it was out there and from that moment on, I was terrified of that house. Now I knew something else was there with us. Now I knew why I always felt as if something were in the room with me even though I couldn’t see it. Now I knew what was opening the doors, taking things, making strange noises and moving stuff. We had a monster. It wasn’t much of a relief to later learn the monster was actually a ghost … and it wasn’t just one … no … there were, in fact, several and one of them was bad!
Okay, I’m done for now! I’m trying to limit each post to to one or two ghostly incidents in order to keep the story relatively short! Hope you visit again for Part III … if you dare! (smile) Until then, blessings to all and Peace Out!