My father and I had a long talk on the phone tonight. It’s rare that he ever talks longer than a few sentences and then abruptly hangs up without a “bye” or a “see ya”. But tonight we talked for almost an hour. The subject changed from lawn furniture, to child abuse, to the American Civil War. When we finally landed on the topic of the “thing” that lived in our house that my sisters and I grew up in on Montclair Avenue here in town. The only thing beneficial about growing up in a supremely haunted house, is that it makes for good stories. That’s it. And to speak of it still today will never fail to raise the hairs on he backs of our necks.
We lived in this house from 1978 to 1990. Looking at it, it doesn’t look like your typical ghost-infested home. When you think of a “haunted house” you would expect to imagine an old plantation home or a Victorian monstrosity from long ago. But not our haunted house. It was built in 1972, dressed with harvest gold and avocado green appliances, shag carpeting, and fuzzy red wallpaper that would have made Sonny and Cher proud. But it was haunted nonetheless. And it made for an interesting and scary environment to raise three young daughters.
We were scared all the time. Not only because we often saw it in the hallway or in the bedrooms, but because you never really felt alone even when you were. It was an unspoken rule that if you were left alone for any period of time, you would sit on the front steps or on the back porch to wait for the rest of the family to come home. Growing up there, you just didn’t know any different. It was just the way things were.
My first memory I have was getting in trouble for getting out of bed. This happened on more than one occasion. A dark figure would dart from room to room, or cross in front of an open doorway when I was supposed to be asleep. My sisters or parents would shout for me to get back in bed, though I was already in bed. It sat on my sisters bed and leaned towards her in the middle of the night. It made people gasp out loud in unison when no one else was supposed to be there, yet someone could be walking in the hallway… You get the picture. But my father denied seeing it every time we shrieked in fear. For years he denied it’s existence, telling us we were being rediculous. Until a few years ago at a family diner he admitted to everyone he had, in fact, seen it. We were floored and angry. But his strategy was pretty smart. By the patriarch of the house not believing it, it made it, in some ways, less of a valid threat.
As we spoke on the phone tonight, my father recalled the night when he saw it clearly. He was watching TV late at night, about to go to bed, when it appeared at the doorway of the room just to his side, walked down the hallway, and straight into my bedroom. This was the first time he told me this, and I asked him what he did. He said “I finished watching TV and went to bed. I asked; “So you didn’t come to check on me?” and he answered no. When I asked why, he explained by telling me a story of what happened to him late one night at a funeral home he worked at in his twenties.
He was sweeping the floor of a room that housed an open coffin of a man who had just been embalmed.. When he glanced at the man inside, he noticed that the man’s chest was rising and falling as if he was breathing. He stared a long time, sure that he was seeing things until he couldn’t take it anymore. Terrified, he dropped the broom and ran to tell his friend what he had seen. The man was an old-timer embalmer who was close to retirement. When my father told him what he had seen. The man looked up and said “You saw it” and went back to work. When my dad asked “What do you mean I saw it?!” the man replied; “It happens all the time. But you can go back in now. You won’t see it again.
My father ended this story by saying; “Sometimes your mind sees things because it says you it sees things. And sometimes you see nothing because your mind says you see nothing. But things are always occurring, whether you see them or not. So what is there to believe in this world?”
I see where he was coming from certainly. But what do I believe in this world? I believe if a creepy see-through woman were to walk in my daughters bedroom, I would follow her in and tell her to get the hell out.