Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Man With a Hat

The very first night I spent the night in my current apartment, my new roommate confided in me that there was a ghost. The ghost of a man who died in the kitchen. My bedroom is off of the kitchen.
I haven't yet seen the Man with the Hat (as my roommates name him) but I have experienced some things:
My roommates and I had some cocktails one night. We stayed up a little later than we should, I suppose? I got in bed and tried to sleep. I woke up to the covers being gently jerked off the foot of the bed. I sat up part-way and said, "stop it, I'm trying to sleep!" and it stopped. It wasn't until the morning that I realized that my roommates were in bed and not playing a prank on me. A few times I've woken with the sheets at the foot of the bed; if I push them myself, they tend to fall to one side or the other.
When one roommate went to visit his mother for the weekend, I perceived a man-sized shadow in his room as I walked by. I stopped and, without looking, simply said, "He'll be back in 2 days" and kept walking. There was no further activity after that.
Sitting in the den, alone, I perceived someone looking at me. I glanced up and saw a shadow dart away. I cannot rule out someone moving around but I didn't hear anything.. and it's impossible to move around the apartment without making some noise.
The closet door in the hallway began rattling one night. I put my hand on the door to make sure I wasn't imagining it when there was a muffled breath, as if something breathing through the keyhole. It stopped right after that.
So, nothing cosmic, nothing that couldn't be explained away, no messages from beyond the grave... yet. I'm keeping my senses open for this one.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Something Wicked

Back in In Blackest Night , I discussed the church complex that I grew up in. Basically, the church was several buildings connected by outdoor walkways. The old Chapel was turned into the Teen Chapel because of some unusual circumstances that took place there.
We discovered, some months prior, that a window that faced the tree line could be pried open easily. This allowed us access to the then all-but-abandoned Chapel. But we never went in when it was getting dark outside. We never turned on any lights, which would draw attention to our secret playground.
One night, several of us tweens had been left by our parents/rides home. It wasn't unusual for families to show up in several cars so it was actually very easy and common for someone to be left behind. We got to a phone and called our respective families for a ride home and now were waiting outside for someone to show up.
I saw it. Each of the kids in our little group saw it. Movement, down the walkway near the Chapel. Human-sizes movement. It looked like monks were walking around the building. Some of us went to look but we didn't see anything. We went back to the rest of group and talked about what we had thought we had seen and what should we do next?
Only two of us, me and J----, saw what happened next. A figure in a hooded cloak turned the corner on the walkway, heading for the Nursery. In fact, Julie says she heard the distinctive sound of the Nursery door close. We hatched our plan.
The boys (C----, S----, and I) went to investigate. The girls would stay behind and see if anyone slips past us and/or alert any adult who might show up what was going on. We split up.
When we got to the Nursery door, my heart dropped: the door was unlocked. We slipped in and figured out how to search the rooms while keeping an eye on the door, preventing anyone from getting past us. Room after room was empty. The final room, the room I had seen an angel in as a child, awaited. We approached the door.
A figure stood in the middle of the room with his back to the door. As we watched, he raised his arms and his cloak fell away revealing... nothing. It was as if he had turned into air, the cloak falling to the ground as if it just collapsed.
We had planned on trying to tackle whomever we found; instead, we ran. As we rounded the corner, C----'s father, a state trooper, showed up. With minimal prompting, we got him to check out the Nursery. We saw his flashlight bobbing through the rooms from the outside (we were instructed to stay put) and then he came out. Something was draped over his nightstick which he held at arm's length, as if it were a snake. It looked like a cloak. He put it in the trunk of his squad car and waited until everyone's parents had shown up to take us home.
After that night, the Chapel was inspected. A group of volunteers went in to paint the walls. It seems they were covered in "water stains". Interior walls with no pipes had water sprayed on them that formed a dark red stain. Yeah, we didn't believe them either.
On a dare, we went into the HVAC closet of the Chapel. There, resting on a wall stud, were some implements of dark rites including a small dagger and a small gilded cup with blood stains. The next time I dared to go look, they were gone. I don't know who took them.
Somehow, we were allowed to have a haunted house for the first and last time that year. Where? The Chapel of course. I was the Phantom, a creature of the catacombs. A bit of a stretch but an apt character for someone who had explored the lower level of the Chapel.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Old Man and Me (Part III, The Final Goodbye)

One night, I woke up to see the Old Man standing near the foot of the bed about a foot or so away. His back was against the wall and he was facing the door opposite. I was a bit bleary-eyed as I tried to talk to him. He didn't respond at first. I sat up, sensing something was wrong. Then, he slowly, slowly turned his head towards me. His aura darkened. I tried to scream when I saw his eye sockets were empty and his face seemed to age before my eyes. He began to step towards the bed, taunting me to call for my parents. I backed up as far as I could as he began to crawl onto the foot of the bed. I jumped out of bed and ran for the door as his dry rasping laugh faded away. I knocked at my parent's door only to have Mom escort me back to bed. Of course, he was gone. The sheets were on the floor.
The next day, the Old Man was back. This time, his aura and demeanor were light. I confided in him what had happened. He was saddened to hear what had happened, assured me that it was not him, and that he thought he knew what needed to be done. He told me was going to be going away soon and that I would have to be strong without him and, after he was gone, everything should settle down a bit. I was torn. I was still uncertain from what had happened the previous night but I also didn't want him to go; through everything, he was the only adult (albeit dead) who believed that I could see and speak with ghosts AND he could fend off the Bad Things.
A few nights later, the Bad Things were calling from the darkness and woke me up. The Old Man was there. He went towards the darkness, the voices, and I could hear their conflict as if down a far tunnel as it faded away. The bedroom seemed lighter somehow. I hadn't realized that there was a darkness in the room before that.
I only saw teh Old Man one more time after that night. My family was all together one day, having lunch. The Old Man was glowing and all smiles but he wouldn't talk to me. He indicated that he didn't want to talk, he was just there to check in on me. Before I could stop myself, I blurted out "STOP!" when my sister went to sit in the seat that he was sitting in. Mom spun me around and demanded to know what was going on. I told her the Old Man was sitting there. Mom took my head in her hands and told me to repeat after her, "there are no ghosts, there's nothing in the dark, and nothing is out to get me". As I repeated those dreadful words, I watched the Old Man fade away, as if being pulled backwards down a tunnel. He was smiling and waving as he left, though, perhaps, a bit sad.
I haven't interacted with any ghosts like I did with him since that day.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Old Man and Me (Part II, the, well, Still Early Years)

Just as a small child has a distorted sense of the passage of time, so too is my recollection of how long I knew the Old Man. In retrospect, I would estimate from the ages of 3 to 6 years old? Hence, I cannot accurately say when certain events transpired. I can put my best guess at it and try to make sense of it.
The Old Man's early appearances were, initially, frightening -- most spirits had minimal interaction with me but he was intent on communicating with me. He did eventually clarify that he wasn't there to frighten me. I daresay we were friends?
At one point, I grew to appreciate his presence. When he was around, nothing came to haunt me and nightmares were rare. When he was away... it's as if the Bad Things, the things we fear, knew it was safe to come after me.
At one point, the Bad Things started to come after me when the Old Man was around. He told me he could hold them off a bit but I would have to be strong if something got past him. I mustn't show fear, the Bad Things lived for that. I recall having just enough fortitude to stand up to one such Bad Thing one night, a shadowy creature with a barely audible but very angry hiss.
The details of these conflicts are muddled. I recall Mom walking in my room on one such night, to find out what the noises were coming from my room. I was huddled up, peering just over the edge of my sheets clutched close to my face. Going from the lit hallway to my darkened room, she didn't see the clothes that had been in mid-air fall to the ground. She just complained that I had a messy room and hadn't we just cleaned it up before I went to bed? I couldn't tell her why the clothes were there because she never believed me when I told her about the ghosts.
Those instances were rare; for the most part, the Old Man and I laughed and played games and enjoyed being able to perceive each other.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Old Man and Me (Part I, the Early Years)

I'm not sure when we found each other. He was suddenly there. I believe he followed me home. If he told me his name, I've since forgotten. I want to say it was "James" but I could be wrong. I just refer to him as the Old Man.
He knew he was dead but he had stuck around to look after his girls, but they couldn't perceive them. He realized that I could not only perceive him but interact with him so he started to look after me, too. But sometimes he left to go check on his girls.
I remember that, at first, he scared me. He managed to convince me that he wasn't a bad man and he listened to me. In a house full of people, sometimes this ghost was the only one who did.
Mom would often walk in on me in mid-game or mid-conversation with the Old Man. Since she couldn't perceive him, she assumed I was talking with myself. While grateful that I could entertain myself so, she also worried about me. When the Old Man wasn't around I interacted with the family more but when he was there I tended to stay in my room, "alone".
I learned to play off his presence fairly well and he learned that he could stay around without fear of being seen. I recall one day sitting on my bed with him, playing my favorite board game (I had to move all the pieces), when Mom burst into the room. She was certain that there was someone else there? But no, I was all alone. As far as she knew. He and I laughed about after she had left. I learned later that Mom sometimes would listen outside my door, trying to catch... something? She just didn't realize what was going on and wouldn't believe me when I tried to tell her. That turned out to by my undoing, time and time again.
I suspected the Old Man was looking after my mother and her sister. He assured me that that wasn't the case, that he wasn't even related to me. I was too young at the time to do much investigative work so I had to let it drop. Reading at a first grade level still isn't helpful when one doesn't have the means to reach the County Clerk's office. In hindsight, I am not convinced that he wasn't a relative. I think he realized that Mom couldn't deal with the thought of someone not going to Heaven just so they can keep an eye on her so he told me that my mother wasn't one of his girls that he was looking after.
The Old Man played a bigger part in my life as I got older. But that will have to wait for another day.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Home Alone

Overall, I was a pretty good kid. My parents would sometimes go away for the weekend and leave me alone when I was old enough to fend for myself (neighbors and family would check up on me so I was really just in the house alone, but looked after).
"Scary" movies would be aired during October and I would usually watch them. They really didn't frighten me too much at that point in my life. I think knowing what was really in the dark, lurking, gave me something to be truly frightened of.
If I let my imagination get the better of me I could imagine that the house, settling, was even more creaky and groany than usual. It was kind of fun to let myself get scared, thinking I might not be alone the house after all?
On one such night, I was alone and watching something scary on TV. Suddenly, there was a loud thump from upstairs. In a panic, I thought I heard voices as well. My dog suddenly sat up as well, ears perked. That was not a good sign. I shut the TV off and listened. The air conditioner shaft thumped loudly at that moment. Then silence. My dog half-barked once, then ran to the bottom of the stairs. He fussed a bit and ran around the hallway, still downstairs, then wanted to go outside. Which sounded like a superb idea at the time.
We went out and I looked at all the upstairs windows, from the safety of the ground floor. All the windows and screens were closed and in place. If someone(s) had broken in, they did a great job of putting everything back in place.
Mustering courage, wielding a baseball bat, and taking my cocker spaniel with me, I inspected every square foot in the house. Nothing. I also didn't notice anything that had fallen over that could have made the loud thump I had heard earlier. Nothing seemed out of place. Getting to sleep that night was difficult.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A Polearm of Some Sort

I grew up sharing a bedroom with my brother for about 6 years. When an older sibling went to college, he moved into that vacant bedroom and left me in my bedroom alone. Many nights I thought I heard him coming into the room and crawling into his old bed only to look over and realize he hadn't.
I started to listen to the radio as I was trying to relax and fall asleep. I began this practice on a night that I was particularly frightened (though I no longer recall the reason). The light from the stereo combined with the soothing sounds enabled me to shut out the world around me and concentrate on sleep.
On a particularly scary night, I left the stereo on while I tried to sleep. The volume was low but audible, the light from the radio tuner seemed bright in the darkened room. I was roused from a restless sleep when I heard the closet door open. I assumed my brother was getting something out of the closet but I was quite wrong.
As I peeked toward the closet door I suddenly woke up. A man-sized being in dark shrouds had stepped from the closet and was hovering towards my bed. I shut my eyes and pretended to be asleep, though I am certain my teeth were chattering. My heart, hammering in my chest, would surely betray me.
The being looked like a classical figure of Death: dark whispy cloak, a skull where the face should be, and a polearm of some sort. I could see through it whenever I dared to peek but I could also clearly see it. It took its time reaching the foot of the bed. And it continued to approach, very slowly. Then, it sat on the bed, staring at me the whole time. I could feel the bed indent as it sat. I could feel the sleeve of its arm as it balanced itself on the bed, moving its skull face in towards mine, getting a closer look.
I assumed I was about to die. Not only was Death sitting on my bed, starting to weigh down on me, but my heart was racing, I was sweaty even though the room was cool, and I could swear even the radio was starting to sound like it was very far away.
I don't know how long we stayed like that, me pretending to sleep while this thing just stared at me, but eventually it got up and moved back to the closet. I was so relieved that it was gone that i jumped up and went to get some water. The rest of the house was quiet and dark; no one else seemed to be have noticed? When I braved a return, I had already decided to just leave the stereo on all night even though it hadn't done anything except make that thing more easily visible. But I did manage to laugh a little. The closet door was closed.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Masques d'Illusion

I have debated writing this post for a few days because it diverges from my original intent of this blog.
From my previous posts, I hope there can be seen an aversion to masks. This has manifested in my life in many ways, not the least of which is an aversion to masks not seen.
"Put on a happy face!", makes me a little ill. Why? Why should we pretend to be what we're not? Who is it really comforting, the viewer or the wearer of the unseen mask?
I battled depression several years ago. A buddy of mine insisted on dragging me out of my apartment, thinking it would somehow cheer me up. If I didn't put on a happy face, I was quickly shunned and avoided. If I did, I made myself ill. Upon returning to my apartment, I would sink deeper into depression because I couldn't "fit in", could just put up a masque d'illusion that I was healthy and my world was wonderful. Like a house of cards, that chicanery quickly disintegrated into a pile of rubbish.
I see the masks people wear. Some are so adept at it, they no longer realize they have a mask on their noggin. Going through life with the pretense of being something they're not, they don't see the damage they're doing. And I reflect on my own masks and try to rip them off and not suffer the life that isn't my own. I don't want to see myself through the soulless eyes of a mask.
To me, wearing that mask ranks right up there with the proverbial used camel salesman: untrustworthy, devoid of life, monstrous, an error on the tapestry of the universe.