There are a few things that are so closely associated with Halloween that not a year goes by we can't escape seeing or hearing about them. My favorite decorations are always the skulls and black cats, witches that look like they've flown into a tree, and the ever-present sheet-ghosts, somehow always reminding me of Charlie Brown.
We've all spent some time as kids telling Ghost Stories, either around a camp fire or at a sleep over, trying to scare our friends. Nobody ever really believes the childhood tales, and there's usually a punch line that makes everyone laugh and breaks the tension. Some people have their own 'ghost stories' that they would love to share, but are afraid people will look at them like they are completely insane. Often people find that when they share these stories, others are more eager to share their own experiences in the end.
I am one of the people who don't often tell my ghost stories for fear of being looked at like a lunatic. This year, that's all going to change thanks to the "365" project. I don't have a single story that I will intentionally hide from this blog or you, my readers. Here, and for this project, I tell all. That includes Ghost Stories that I have personally experienced.
Each year on Halloween I'm reminded of one memory in particular. I can't help it. We were living in Victorville at the time and I was dressed up as a Witch yet again. I was headed out for the usual collection of candy when my mother told us to look up in the sky. It happened to be a full moon that night. As the moon crested Bell Mountain, it came in a scarlet wave. The thin clouds near by gave an eerie glow to the slopes angling away from the moon.
I told my mother it looked like a chocolate sundae with whipped topping, the moon being the cherry on top. I told her I would never forget what the moon looked like that night and how it lit up the sky, a beacon of dread casting eerie shadows on that memorable Halloween night. She told me that 'never' was a long time, and she didn't believe I'd remember it even the following year. Well, here it is more than two decades later and I still remember that eerie moon in the sky, the cherry on the Halloween sundae. Here it is, Halloween once more, and a Sunday at that. How could I not remember that night?
Every kid has heard the stories about a Haunted House, and usually there's one in every neighborhood that all the kids 'dare' one another to go up to. We certainly had those houses around when I was growing up, and every time we moved there was a new one to find. The local kids always knew how to scare us, telling us stories about kids that went in and never came back out, the old lady with long red fingernails inside, the spooky noises and dark cellars; there was never a shortage anywhere we ever lived. But I never knew anyone who actually lived in a haunted house - until I moved into one myself.
Ghost stories were fun to read as a kid. They were the most popular item I would check out from the library other than Greek Mythology. When I broke my foot in 3 places I got to volunteer in the "Special Needs" class instead of going to Gym class. I read ghost stories to the kids in that class for Halloween that year. They hung on the edge of their seats with anticipation all the way until the end of class. I loved that effect. That's when I first realized I loved to tell a good story as much as I liked to write them.
When we first moved to Utah, we loved the new house. It was the first time we had lived anywhere off of the military base as far back as I could remember. My parents bought their own home, and to this day (last I heard) that's where they still live. Mom always talked about moving closer to her mother to help take care of her, but since she's passed on now, I don't think those plans have any real meaning anymore.
It was a big, beautiful home with four bedrooms, two bathrooms, a two car garage, a family room, a separate laundry room, a living room and a huge back yard. To my dad the biggest selling point was the automotive shop all the way in the back. He always loved working on old cars. We had two peach trees, two walnut trees, raspberries in the very back next to the shop and more room than we knew what to do with.
The house looked small from the front, but that appearance was quite deceptive. It was, by far, the largest house in the neighborhood as far as I could tell. The man who originally built it had somewhere around 9 children, and when he could afford it he decided to build his dream house. They lived there for a number of years until all of the kids (but one) grew up and moved away. When my parents went to look at it, they instantly fell in love. It was a split-level home with all of its original shag carpeting downstairs, and access to the back door was gained by walking through the laundry room, but with a few minor changes, the place would be perfect. They decided to buy it.
My most favorite place to be in those early days was out back, since my room often had mysterious cold spots and strange drafts going through it, even when the windows were closed. The yard was huge and I could roll in the grass to my hearts content without worrying about rattlesnakes. I worked with the dogs and eventually had them so well trained all I had to do was snap my fingers and give a hand command. Both of them learned quickly with all the time I was spending with them. I also learned a lot about them and learned how to read their body language better than anyone in the family. Cookie was amazing with the way she would communicate. I always knew what she wanted or what she was thinking somehow. Later on, this became very handy.
Things were fine for a while. Life went on as usual. It was a couple of months before things started to go 'bump' in the night. Dad was renovating the bathroom or the laundry room, I forget which. The projects in the house were never ending. He would blast Olivia Newton John or Crystal Gayle all day every day. When the music shut off mysteriously, he didn't pay any attention. He would go back into the family room and turn the CD player back on, hit play, and go back to work.
The television upstairs started to act up one day. Back then, the televisions would have double digit numbers on the bottom similar to those found on an alarm clock, constantly displaying the channel the TV was on in a small display window on the lower left hand side of the TV, just under the screen itself. The numbers were always in bright red and impossible to miss.
I was sitting at the table working on some homework when the TV switched on. Nobody was around, so I figured it was my brother pulling a practical joke on me. I didn't pay much attention, but instead grabbed the remote control and hit the power button. Rather than the TV switching off, it suddenly roared to life with some news broadcast about the weather. I jumped and dropped the remote. While I fumbled for it, my Mom came out of her room asking what all the noise was. Finally I switched the TV off and explained it to her.
"I was just doing my homework when the TV came on and I tried to turn it off. I must have changed the channel instead."
"How could the TV come on by itself?"
"I don't know, but it did." She was convinced I was making the whole thing up.
"What channel was it on?" It dawned on me just then that the channel indicator wasn't lit up.
"It wasn't on a channel, but I saw a face." She looked at me like I had two heads. "It was, Mom! I swear it was! At first it was all static-ey like snow. Then a face came up behind the static. It looked like a fat old bald man talking. I couldn't hear anything he was saying, but he was talking." Her expression didn't change.
"Get your homework done," she said, pointing at my pen I had dropped on the floor.
Things went along normally for a while. Mom would misplace her keys and we'd find them on a windowsill or behind the cookbook stand. Dad would swear he left his iced tea glass on the table only to find it in the sink filled with soap and water. My brother would be missing baseball cards and blame me. Even I would fall victim to the "not me" monster.
The next time the TV went off, it sent chills up and down my spine. There was the face, vivid and clear, but hiding behind the static reception on the TV. The channel lights weren't lit up, but the old bald man was still talking. This time I paid closer attention to him. He had white ruffles at his throat and a black jacket over the top. His face was very round, his forehead creased with age. He had rosy cheeks, like a clean shaven Santa, but he had so much anger in his eyes. Finally I grew too frightened to see it anymore. I couldn't find the remote, so I jumped up to turn the TV on and then back off again, just as before. Again, the TV blared to life and my mother came out of her sewing room to see what I had done. I switched it off.
"Manda, I was just watching that TV a little while ago and I had turned the volume really low when the phone rang. You can't tell me that the same thing happened again." She set her needle and thread down on the table.
"But it did!" I defended myself as best I could. "Mom, it wasn't me! I saw that face again."
"Manda, stop making things up. This is silly. You'd do anything to get out of doing your homework." She turned to walk back to her sewing and remembered that she had set down her needle. When she went to pick it up, it wasn't there. She looked at me, told me to give it back to her, and I stared at her completely dumbfounded.
"I didn't take it."
"Just stop it." She began searching through my school things for the needle, but didn't find it anywhere. Finally she located it. "I didn't realize I set it down over here," she said as she picked it up in front of the television set. She hadn't even been close to the TV since she walked in. She also failed to notice the pattern the thread had been spread into. It was a perfect spiral.
She walked back to her sewing room, and I decided to lay on the living room floor to finish my work for the night, away from the television set.
Things went on as normal yet again. The television didn't play anymore tricks on me for a while, and it wasn't until the following year anything happened with it at all. I was sitting downstairs reading when I heard a loud blast of noise. Thinking something was wrong, I went running up to find my mother standing in front of that old television with the remote in her hand, her face as white as bed sheets.
"Ha!" I shouted, jolting her attention away from the TV screen. "You saw it finally, huh?"
"That was really weird," she said, acting as though it was no big deal. She was a brave woman, and always had been, but I knew it had rocked her very core. "I thought the TV had come on by itself while I was cooking dinner. I wanted to changed the channel, but it wouldn't change, so I tried to turn the TV off and it came on instead."
"I knew it! It's not just me! What did he look like, Mom?"
"It was a chunky old bald guy like you said. He was talking, but I couldn't hear him. I thought it was the news." As she spoke, I watched the hair on her arm begin to rise and stand on end. She jerked her arm and threw the remote down on the table like it had shocked her with a good jolt of electricity. "Manda," she said to me, looking quite worried, "that was really strange."
"I told you I saw it, Mom! I told you!"
"We saw something, I suppose." She turned to walk back into the kitchen. "I don't know what it was yet. Has to be an electrical short in the TV or something."
The TV continued to spook my mother and myself, but nobody else ever saw it. It seemed each time the old man decided to talk to us again, my dog would always sit up and watch the TV just before it came to life. It got to where I knew from her just when to expect it. Sometimes, if she was close enough, I would call my mother to come watch it with us. We would try to read the old mans lips, but there was too much static. We couldn't tell what he was saying, and he never had a voice. Even the static didn't have any sound. It was an eerie blanket of silence.
"Maybe he's some dead guy trying to talk to us," Mom said to me one day, trying to scare me.
"Mom, we might as well call it what it is. It's a ghost. He moves things around in the house. I walk through cold spots upstairs in the middle of the afternoon, in the SUMMER. I get these feelings like someone is watching me sometimes when I'm home alone. I once felt someone's hand on my shoulder when I nearly fell down the stairs."
"You never told me any of this," she said. "Did the hand on your shoulder push you?"
"No, it stopped me from falling." I knew as I said it that it was a lie, but I didn't want to scare my Mother more than I already had. I didn't mean to tell her so much.
"I've had weird things happen to me, too."
"You know how I always stack the dishes in the dish drainer like a puzzle? They never fall down, right?"
"Right." My mother was the worlds greatest dish-stacker. Even her mother thought that. She had a reputation in the family for it. An entire Thanksgiving dinner's worth of dishes could be fit into one dish drainer, packed higher than the cabinets and towering over three feet, never a single one would shift or fall over.
"The other day I put the dishes in the dish drainer, and they weren't even piled high. I turned around to put the potatoes on the stove to boil and suddenly the whole dish drainer, dishes and all, slammed onto the floor. Nearly gave me a heart attack. I screamed and your Dad came running. I didn't know what to tell him, so I just told him that I must have knocked them over on accident."
"And what did he say?"
We stared at one another a long moment. Finally we started telling each other all about the bizarre things we had both experienced.
She had walked through the living room one day and saw one of my dog's rubber balls suddenly roll across the thickly carpeted floor on its own; both of the dogs were out in the back yard at the time.
One day she folded the laundry and went to fetch the basket to carry them in. While she was gone those few seconds, somehow the clothes went from being neatly folded on the couch to being spread across the floor, over to the fireplace, not even remotely folded. She had thought it was the dogs until she realized that they were, yet again, both outside.
She had experienced the same things I had, walking through cold spots in the middle of the summer or smelling fire down the hall and racing to the kitchen only to discover everything was fine. I'd experienced that one day when I was downstairs, but mine was far worse.
It was in the middle of the night. I was thirsty, but I didn't want simple tap water. I wanted a drink of milk. It always helped me to sleep better. My room couldn't have been farther from the kitchen if I had been sleeping in dad's car shop out back. Slowly I crept out of bed. Cookie wasn't supposed to be inside at night, but I usually smuggled her into my room anyway. She began to growl very softly as I reached for the door handle, but she wasn't looking at me. She was looking directly at the foot of my bed. Chills ran up and down my spine. A chill came over my room and I could see my own breath in a fog before me. I grabbed the door handle and turned. Even the door handle seemed to chill under my touch. It went from a normal metallic touch to suddenly freezing.
I walked out of my room slowly and closed the door so Cookie didn't follow me. The last thing I needed was for her to be discovered and get into trouble for having her with me and for sneaking out of bed. I went to the kitchen, grabbed a glass from the dish drainer, filled it half way with milk, drank it down, and rinsed out my glass. Then I set the empty glass back into the dish drainer and went back to my room.
My foot barely left the last step when the smell reached my nostrils. It was the unmistakable smell of fire, of burning wood and ash. The neighbors often burned garbage in their fireplace (gross, but true) but it was a different smell. It was the smell of peeling paint and burning hair. I heard my dog whimper and saw her paw sticking out from under my door. She cried desperately, scratching wildly at the door. She tried to get out, but I had closed her in. I ran towards the smell of the fire and grabbed my door handle. This time, instead of freezing cold, my door handle was burning hot. I flung the door open and expected to see a singed dog and burning room. Cookie jumped up into my arms and shook violently. Inside the room was normal. The smell of smoke faded immediately, the temperature returned to normal, and I went to sleep on the couch. That night, Cookie didn't mind sleeping outside.
We lived in the house with the 'thing' we called "Mr. Anderson" after the original owner of the house in peace for a while. Things would still move, but the foggy breath and burning smells stopped for a long time. Sometimes we would walk through the house and get the faint smell of flowers with none in the house and all the windows closed. Mom was allergic to perfumes or scented candles, so we never found an explanation for the smell. A breeze would flutter through without a source once in a while. Dad always thought we were crazy, and my brother actually agreed with him. Cookie and Shadow would warn us when something funky was about to happen usually, and we got so used to the TV acting up that we would just reach over and hit the power button twice whenever it started. Things returned to almost normal.
When I broke my foot in 3 places I ended up sleeping in the bedroom closest to the kitchen for convenience. It was always the coldest room in the house, and I missed having Cookie to keep my hands warm as I slept. The cast was big and bulky, and I had to sleep with my foot propped up on pillows. That's never an easy thing to do for someone who sleeps on their stomach. I often woke up with the pillows on the floor and my foot throbbing.
As I slept in that room for the second night, the chills took hold of me until I was shaking violently. I huddled under the blankets for warmth, pulling them over my head so my breath would warm my hands. My toes stung with the biting cold as they protruded from the open end of the cast. I felt like someone had brushed against my exposed toes, but they were so cold I couldn't be sure. I pulled the covers back from my head and looked, only to discover nobody else was in my room. I resumed my position under the blankets, shivering madly.
Suddenly the foot of the bed lifted from the ground. I slid towards the headboard of the solid oak frame. Startled, I didn't have time to do anything but yank the covers back from my face before the bed suddenly slammed to the floor of the bedroom again. I bounced and jolted in the bed, screaming louder than a wild cat. I cried openly, shaking harder from fear than from cold. The resounding "boom" of the bed striking the ground with such force could be heard all over the house.
Within seconds, my mother and father were at my door. Dad came at me in an accusatory tone asking what I had done, but my mother knew from the look on my face what had happened.
"What did you do," my father shouted. "We're trying to sleep, Young Lady!"
Hysterically I babbled and cried, my words coming out incoherently in a jumbled mess. I couldn't seem to spit it out. Only two brief seconds of my speech made a full and complete sentence.
"Someone picked up the end of my bed!!"
I was more terrified in that instant than any time before or after. It was far more frightening than almost falling from a roller coaster to me. Mom told Dad to go back to bed, she would take care of me. As he turned and walked back into their room, my Mother sat on the edge of my bed and I caught a glimpse of my brother out in the hall. The noise had even woken him up; otherwise nearly impossible to do.
"Was it Mr. Anderson?" She looked at me and touched my forearm gently.
"I guess so," I said.
"Did you see him?"
"No," I admitted. I was privately glad I hadn't. "I think I felt him though."
"Felt him? How?"
"Just before it happened I felt something on my toes," I gestured towards my cast. "I peeked to look, but I didn't see anything. I was really cold. I don't know if it was him I felt or if it was just my toes tingling because they were cold."
"What was the noise? What happened?"
"Someone picked up the end of my bed and then slammed it down again. Mom, my foot hurts." I buried my face in her arm and cried big, fat tears. I was embarrassed and frightened, a horrible combination. Mom ran her hand over my hair until I fell asleep again. The next day I went back to my own room. To this day I try not to go into that room if I can help it. I still get the chills up and down my spine.
Once more things were quiet for a while. It seemed every time something REALLY bizarre happened, things calmed down for a bit. That was as bizarre as had happened to anyone in the house up until that point. Things were so calm for so long that eventually Mom and I began to worry. Even then, things remained quiet at home. Finally, it was all but forgotten. Nothing truly strange or scary had happened for over a year.
I was 15 years old and my parents were still nervous about leaving me home alone for any length of time. They had been invited on a hunting trip with some of my Dad's buddies from work, but they didn't want to go unless my brother promised to stay home with me. He agreed, but my brother and I always had a code. We knew we were the mice, and the cats were going away for the weekend.
I sat upstairs on the couch in the living room, where Mom and Dad never let me sit when they were home. My brother had left the hour before in his patch work quilt pick up truck filled with rust holes to pick up some of his friends. They had decided to go cruising for 'babes' that night, and I told him not to worry, I would be fine.
Cookie and I sat watching Country Music Television for a while after flipping through channels and discovering nothing fun or of any importance was on. Lari White was singing her big hit of the 90's "That's My Baby" and I was watching the music video for the first time. I heard a rather odd sound on the stairs behind me and Cookie perked up, so I hit the mute button on the TV to listen. I heard it again. It was a distinctive groan on the stairs, just behind where I sat. I froze in place, not daring to move. The hair on Cookie's back began to stand up on end all the way down to the base of her tail. Her ears perked up and her teeth shined as she pulled back her lips in a silent snarl. I waited, thinking it was just the house settling. Dad said that sometimes older houses make strange noises. I'd never seen Cookie react like that before. She looked around and climbed silently into my lap, never dropping her attention from the stairwell. Finally she stood on her hind legs and peeped over the back of the couch. She sat there staring into nothing for a long moment, the hair on her back beginning to relax a bit.
Just as I was beginning to relax with her, the hair on her back bristled again. Within a split second from her very low, very deep growl I heard a huge pile of cardboard boxes in the closet beneath the stairs fall over, tumbling with a large, loud crash of breaking glass, crunching wood and distinctive cardboard muffling bumps against the door.
Without a sound I grabbed Cookie and headed for the back door of the house. As silently as I possibly could, I opened the back door and crept down the wooden steps outside. Shadow was huddled up on the back porch at the bottom and I nearly stepped on his black body in the darkness of night. With bare feet, I nimbly flew over him with Cookie still in my arms. I snatched him up in my other arm and took off for the side gate.
With both dogs under each arm, I raced for the neighbors house. Someone had broken into the house and I needed to call the Police!
I set both of the dogs down on Stephanie Popham's porch and knocked as loudly as possible. Patiently I waited several minutes. No lights were on and I didn't hear anything in the house. After a few more tries, I ran to Robbie's house across the street, both dogs following right at my heels. Shadow only looked confused, while Cotton had a look of urgency to her face that matched my own. I pounded on Robbie's door, but again there was no answer and all the lights were out. Finally I turned to the spooky house in the neighborhood. The people next door lived in what I thought looked like the quintessential Haunted House, complete with live black cats, spider webs on everything, and a cauldron on the front porch. They avoided daylight and neighbors at all costs. I swallowed hard. The dogs waited in the yard. I knocked lightly at first and got no answer. I thought about what it would mean walking back into the house and coming face to face with a burglar, or even worse, a rapist. I turned back and knocked harder. Nothing. Desperation nearly made pound the door down. After sitting on their porch for a long moment, waiting for any sign of life down my street, I finally grew nerves of steel, or worried my remaining brain cells loose. I picked myself up and marched straight back to the gate. I walked through it, told both of my dogs to sit and stay, and marched right back over to the back door of the house. I crept silently up the steps, cracked the door a bit to look around, and tip-toed straight to the phone near the back door. I picked it up, dialed 911 and walked straight back to the door with it. Then I sat down on the back porch, tethered to the house by a coiled leash, and listened to the phone ring.
"9-1-1, what is the nature of your emergency?"
"I think there's someone in my house and I'm home alone," I whispered.
"You'll have to speak up, I can't hear you."
"I said," I strained my voice and slowed down a bit, but still didn't speak up, "I'm home alone and I think there's someone in my house."
"Someone broke into your house?"
"I think so."
"Where are they now?"
"They were downstairs when I tried to run to the neighbors."
"Where are you right now?"
"I'm upstairs." At that point I started to cry. "None of the neighbors were home so I had to come back home to use the phone."
"Ok, do you know where he is right now?"
"But he was downstairs when you went to find a neighbor?"
"Are you safe right now?"
"I think so."
"Stay on the phone with me until you hear the police, ok?"
"Ok. I see lights. I think they're here." The beautiful sound of sirens reached my ears. I was never so happy to hear police cars in the middle of the night.
"Ok, I just heard from them, that's them. Go ahead and meet them now if you can."
I left the phone hanging in the door and took off down the stairs. I grabbed both dogs as they sat in place where I left them near the gate. I ran, still barefoot, around to the front and met the Officers at the door.
They didn't discover a single cardboard box or broken item in the house. By the time my parents heard about the story, they were more than angry at my brother for leaving me home alone, and my father was upset at me for calling the police and getting scared for what he called "no reason." Mom completely understood. She was only upset at my brother.
They still live in that house, but the strangest thing that happens these days would be missing keys or an over turned glass in the sink. Mom said it was all revolved around me, like the spook of the house didn't like me.
Here's a little Halloween Bonus for you guys! Just click here!