I’m fairly practical. I’m not scared of much. I know I’ve mentioned this. Sure, those stupid children’s haunted houses scare the crap out of me, but that’s mostly because I’m scared of the unknown, i.e. people jumping out at me, not so much the noises and the fake blood and the people dressed as emo mummies and what have you. I’m not scared of creepy-crawlies and I’m not scared of heights (well, I mean, I’m not saying I want to jump off of high things, that’s just stupid, but I wouldn’t be the person weeping and wailing on The Amazing Race too scared to go on the gondola over the mountains, if you know what I mean) and I’m not scared of horror movies (well, mostly, I mean, you’d have to be an idiot not to be a little creeped out by The Exorcist, right? I mean, that’s the DEVIL. Who’s not creeped out a little by the DEVIL? Weirdos, that’s who.)
I’m scared of things like not having enough money and losing my job and people I love dying and getting maimed in a fiery car crash and people touching me in crowds. You know, normal things like that. What, normal people aren’t scared of people touching them in crowds? FINE. That one’s a me-thing. LET ME HAVE IT.
However. It’s Halloween. And, in honor of Halloween, which is actually, contrary popular belief, NOT “dress up like a skank ho” day and more “the wall between the worlds is thin” day, here are my somewhat otherworldly experiences, for you to take as you will.
I’ve been in two places where I had a weird feeling. No, not a “probably I shouldn’t be here, Fratboy Joe is really getting grabby hands after his fifth Jaeger shot,” but a “there’s something here that doesn’t want me here.” One was in a House of History/museum where I’d gone for a lecture about the history of the town where I lived. Halfway through the talk (which wasn’t even about ghosts or anything spooky), I started getting a very, very bad feeling. It wasn’t due to the audience, which was mostly me and then a ladies’ book club with a lot of red hats and blue hair; it was something in the room and something in the air. I can’t explain it. The house seemed negatively charged. The person giving the lecture had started by briefly saying it was one of the oldest houses in town, nothing more than that, so nothing that could have preyed on my subconscious. I stayed for the lecture, but can’t remember much of it. I was fighting with my flight response the entire time. After it was done, a guide appeared and asked if we’d like a tour of the house. I’d been planning on staying for the tour – as mentioned, nothing I like more than history – but I ran out like I’d forgotten the iron on and my house was on fire. I wish I could tell you I found out a triple homicide happened there or something, but I don’t know. Just one of those things, I guess.
Same thing happened, but on smaller scale, when my friend Mer and I went to visit the Winchester Mystery House in California about ten years ago. Loved the place – you just don’t get something creepier and more steeped in history than that house, plus it’s just utterly gorgeous (and there is TOTALLY a Big-style Zoltar machine in the lobby) – but we entered one room that the guide told us had been used for séances and I was immediately on alert, with everything in me screaming to get out. Nothing struck me as weird about the rest of the house. Do I think something bad happened in there? Do I think there were malevolent spirits? I don’t know. It’s pretty arrogant of me to think I know everything there is to know about the world, isn’t it? So I just don’t know.
I’ve also has had two occurrences happen to me that I can’t explain. One of which science seems to want to explain away for me; one of which I never got an explanation for.
The first was in my very first bachelorette apartment in graduate school. It was a tiny place – just a wee little studio, with the most adorable Murphy bed you’ve ever seen – and also, probably just about the least-likely place for anything strange to happen, because where would the ghost HIDE? The OVEN? There weren’t even any SHADOWS. It was like a walk-in CLOSET, it was so small.
One night, I woke up from a sound sleep and someone was standing over my bed.
I couldn’t see him clearly, just his shape. It was very dark in the apartment, and since I wear glasses, I’m pretty much blind without them when I wake up. He was standing to the left of me bed, watching me sleep. I could tell it was a male – the outline was too large and blocky to be female.
I couldn’t figure out how anyone got in. I’d locked and chained the door. I wasn’t sure if I should move, or stay very still and pretend to be still sleeping. I decided that was stupid, and opened my mouth to scream. I couldn’t. I couldn’t move. Not a muscle. I was completely frozen in my bed. My cat, sleeping next to me, woke up, arched her back, hissed at the man and ran under the bed. I just stayed there, frozen, watching him. He didn’t move. I got very, very cold. I could see his eyes, just a glitter from them from the moonlight from the window.
When I woke up the next morning, of course there was no one there. The chain was still on the door. There wasn’t even any proof that it wasn’t a dream, so I suppose it could have been. But I don’t dream. Not really. I mean, sometimes I have very stupid dreams where I’m making out with my high school crush or something and just when it gets good the alarm goes off, but nothing like that. I’m still convinced, years later, something was there. It was too real to have been a dream. I don’t imagine things – contrary to popular belief, I’m just not that creative.
Apparently, this is a thing. It’s a syndrome, Sleep Paralysis. But I’ve read up on it and it doesn’t say anywhere that it happens to you once and never happens again. So sure, maybe it was a one-time occurrence of sleep paralysis. I mean, anything’s possible, right? But I think there was something in my apartment that night. I really do. I don’t know what it was, and I feel kind of stupid even saying it, but it was too real to have been out of my head. The things in my head are a lot more entertaining than a shadow with shiny eyes, I mean, seriously.
Second, and much less explained-away-by-science: I used to work at a theater that had a long history and was in a very old building. (I still do, just a different one in a different town, but unfortunately, no ghosties have popped up to say hi yet. And I’ve even encouraged them by walking around in the dark. I guess I need to yell “COME AT ME BRO!” and see what happens? No. No, I don’t think I will. That is actually the opposite of what I think I will do.)
One night, after our evening performance, the cast was going out to a party and I had to work early in the morning so I volunteered to stay and lock up so they could leave and get ready. I was alone in the building for a while, cleaning up, getting things set for the show the next day, puttering around in the theater, where I felt very comfortable.
I set the alarm, locked up, ran to my car, then realized I’d forgotten something (no idea what, it was a while ago) in the basement (where the dressing rooms and costume area were.) Cursing my idiocy, I ran back in, unlocked, unset the alarm, locked the door after me so no one would creep in while I was in the basement, and went downstairs. I only turned on a couple of lights because I knew exactly where what I needed was and I knew the place backward and forward. I didn’t need lights to find my way around.
I was halfway back from grabbing whatever it was and on my way back up when the noise started. It was coming from directly overhead – so the stage, which was what I was underneath at that point – and it was loud. The ceiling was shaking, it was so loud. I let out a little scream, because that’s the last thing you’re expecting when you’re alone in the half-dark, some sort of loud thundering noise.
It was horses. Horse hoofbeats. And what sounded like wheels. And it went on for a few minutes. I stood, frozen, listening, watching the fluorescents on the ceiling jiggle, wondering if the theater director, known for his pranks, could possibly have set up something this elaborate, with the sound AND the special effects AND the not-laughing (he was known for giggling halfway through his pranks and ruining them, and this was going on for a while.) I couldn’t think of any way anyone could do all of that, even with the theater’s sound system and technology to work with.
It stopped abruptly, like a cord had been yanked out. Everything was silent. I stood there for a few more minutes, then quickly ran upstairs, shutting off lights as I went, set the alarm pad, locked the door, and ran to my car.
No one ever mentioned it to me, so if it was a prank, they didn’t get the satisfaction of knowing how it affected me, if at all. I didn’t mention it to anyone because if it WAS somehow a prank, I didn’t want them to know it had unnerved me.
I read a few years later the theater used to be a saloon, and saw a photo of it in the 1800’s, with a horse and carriage pulled up in front. Could be coincidence. I didn’t know it at the time I heard the noise.
I still don’t have an explanation for it. I know it’s not scary, like a possible dream-man or maybe a killer WHO KNOWS standing over your bed. But it’s kind of cool. I probably should have gone upstairs and seen if there was a ghost cowboy who wanted me to be his ghost schoolmarm, because that might have been totally a romance novel waiting to happen, right? And – BONUS – it was kind of a night “mare.”GET IT BECAUSE HORSES. Ha!
Happy Halloween, everyone! May your evening be filled with fun-sized Snickers and kiddos dressed up like little hoboes and bobbing for apples and crunchy leaves and pumpkins glowing from porches. Just trust me on this – just say no to the sexy _______ (serial killer/baby doll/paparazzi/cow/etc.) costumes, ok? IT’S TOO COLD TO HAVE YOUR BUSINESS ALL HANGING OUT THERE LIKE THAT FOR THE LOVE OF PETE.