It’s no secret that I love Halloween. Like, a lot. Always have.
And like many kids and teens, I was obsessed with the paranormal. The interest ran in my family. My dad’s mom loved ghost stories. My dad had a spooky story about when he lived with his grandmother in his 20s and the thing that lived in the dining room. My mom’s side of the family is staunchly Catholic and so we don’t talk about these things. My mom did have some experiences when she was little that she absolutely refuses to discuss. She and my dad also warned me away from Ouija boards and seances, and there’s always been a little part of me that’s pretty sure you’re inviting some scary ass stuff into your life when you play with those things. But I still read the stories and watched the movies and just scared myself silly too many times to count.
(Here’s the part where I talk about my own spooky thing. And here’s the part where Fred stops reading. He’s a scientist, he’s not down with this stuff. At all. So I love talking about it around him to see how far back in his head his eyes can roll.)
I’ve never seen anything. No ghostly apparitions, no floating orbs, no objects moving of their own volition. The closest I’ve come to an actual sensory (as in, sight, smell, taste, touch, or hearing) experience was the night my grandfather died. Technically, he died in the morning, and that night we were staying in my grandparents’ house. And around 3 or 4 in the morning, I heard my grandfather walk down the hall, jiggling the change in his pocket. As a kid, I stayed in that house every summer, and we were there every Christmas and Thanksgiving as well. My grandfather always woke early and would walk to the kitchen, jingling and jangling the change in his pocket. It was a sound I was well accustomed to hearing, and thought nothing of it when I first heard it that night. Until I realized what I was hearing. It wasn’t scary — in fact, quite the contrary.
But that’s not the spooky story.
(Now, the big reveal and you’ll get to the end and say “That’s it?” I’m always for the big build-up and inevitable let down.)
Eight years ago, Fred and I were living in a little place in Northern California. We liked our landlord, and the location was crazy convenient, but in March, a leak in the roof irreparably damaged some of our furniture, and ants invaded. Our landlord was sympathetic, and offered us another unit in the building. Ours was at the front, right off the street. This new one was set back a ways, down a long driveway. The new unit had just been renovated, was leak- and ant-free, so we agreed to switch. We moved little by little throughout the course of one week, taking non-essentials down when we would get home from work. On Friday, we recruited some friends to help move the furniture, and then Fred and I spent the evening moving the rest of our belongings. We were tired, so rather than walking back and forth, we would load up our little car, drive it down to the new place, unload it, and drive it back. We made trip after trip. Around 9 or 10 that night, I walked outside to put stuff in the car and was immediately anxious. I hurried to finish loading and went back inside. The anxiety lifted. This repeated throughout the night. Outside=anxious. Inside=fine. In fact, it got worse the later it got, to the point where I did not want to go outside anymore. It was heavy, and thick. I found myself looking around constantly while outside. I told Fred, and we hurried to finish, finally collapsing on our couch in the new place, serenaded by the sounds of our neighbor singing karaoke in Tagalog.
Fred spent the next day at a Little League game (he and some friends were coaches that spring) and after unpacking and arranging for a bit, I decided to take a nap. (I was barely pregnant at this point, and unaware, but my body was already doing weird things, like deciding it was done early in the day. Come to think of it, it never really STOPPED doing that…) I climbed in to bed with one of the cats and started to drift off, when the cat marched to the foot of the bed, looked out in the hallway toward the living room, and began growling. Low, guttural noises that I had never heard him make before. I woke up and everything felt… different. That anxious feeling — the heavy thickness I had felt whenever I had gone outside — was back, and it was bad. It was in my house. I looked in the direction where my cat was staring (he was now standing, back arched, hair up ALL over, ears back, still growling), and didn’t see anything. But I felt it. I even called out, “Hello?” thinking someone had come in.
(Really. Like, who, a robber? Who would answer back?)
I was terrified.
So I shouted, “GO AWAY!” in the general direction of the living room. I felt like an idiot. I also didn’t move. Eventually my cat calmed down and came and sat next to me. He never stopped staring down the hall though. I was still in the bed when Fred came home, and as he came in, the last of the anxiety that was lingering dissipated. I told him what had happened, and he stared at me for a bit.
That I night I blessed the house (kind of like smudging but with less sage and more “The power of Christ compels you”) and as I went into each room I said (in my head), You can’t be here. We’re here now. You have to go. The house felt normal after that. In fact, Fred went out of town the next day and I never had the anxiety return.
We stayed in that house until December of that year and never had any more incidents. A week after all of this happened, we found out I was pregnant. Throughout my pregnancy and Emma’s first seven weeks, all was quiet. I don’t know what was in that house, but I’m pretty sure it was not happy we had moved in.