Saturday, October 27, 2007

"Our ways are not your ways, and there shall be to you many strange things." *

Does your house have ghosts? It’s nice to see CNN covering all the hard-hitting news stories of the day…

This article was a follow-up to this one: Poll: Third of people believe in ghosts. The sentence in this one that utterly confused me was this: “The most likely candidates for ghostly visits include single people, Catholics and those who never attend religious services.” Um, nothing like covering all your bases?

The local paper also had its share of ghost stories today. ‘Tis the season…

I myself have never seen a ghost. (I never hope to see one. But this I tell you anyhow, I’d rather see than be one. Sorry. Couldn’t help myself...) Anyhoo, I have never seen a ghost. I am torn between wanting to see one, and being grateful that the spirits have never chosen to reveal themselves to me. Because I am a big fat wuss, and would faint straight away, and what fun is that for a ghost?

Sure, as a kid, I did the stupid things we all do: the Bloody Mary chant at the bathroom mirror in the dark, “The Monkey’s Paw” related at dusk so you were scared to venture off your own porch, “Johnny, I Want My Liver back!” told at countless sleepovers.

Once, at the old house (which really wasn’t that old and not nearly as big and creaky as this one), Primo and I were playing in his room at the top of the stairs. The cat was staring out the door, and then Primo turned and said, “The gas mask lady!” and returned to whatever he was doing – disemboweling the laundry basket’s contents, no doubt. I was frozen – do I look, and risk seeing something, or ignore it? I looked, and there was nothing there that I could see, but both the cat and Primo saw…something. (The gas mask lady was a reminder of one of my stupidest parenting moments EVER: H and I took a toddler Primo to an anti-war march with us the previous autumn. Fine. Until the extremists wearing gas masks and dressed as corpses wandered past, and gave Primo nightmares for weeks. He was obsessed with the gas-mask-wearers in particular, and asked a hundred different questions about them. So yes, when he blithely announced, “The gas mask lady!” a shiver went down my spine.)

When we first moved into our current house, bought from the estate of the man who used to live here, I often felt a friendly...not even presence, it wasn’t that strong. It was more a benevolent glow, that someone/thing was happy that a family was living in and taking care of this house. The old man had been sick for a long time, and the house had been allowed to grow dilapidated and shabby (which is precisely why we could afford it). I am not saying that Henry’s ghost was pleased as punch that we replaced the main sewer stack and completely rewired the entire house in the first six months we were here, but I did get the feeling, traipsing around, surveying my new domain at night, that we were wrapped in warm, fuzzy feelings somehow. It is a feeling that has eased up in the past year; perhaps we are not fixing up fast enough, or perhaps Henry got tired of waiting for us to do something really amazing like point the outside of the house and took off for a better place, but at any rate, it’s a good solid house, and we are happy here.

You know, my maternal grandmother was born and raised in the shadow of the Carpathian mountains. She had a touch of something supernatural – she had dreams that came true. Sometimes scary or traumatic ones, but just as often, harmless, happy dreams, resulting merely in a pleasant sense of déjà vu.

My mother was a tad more dramatic. She claimed to have experienced a ‘time-slip’ at the palace of Versailles, similar to that claimed by Anne Moberley and Eleanor Jourdain, and, later, apparently multiple other tourists.

My favorite supernatural claim by my mother, though, remains this one: My father died in September 1987, and in an unseasonably warm January in ‘89, my mother went to visit the grave and clear up the Christmas wreathes and flowers. As she worked, a bee buzzed around the headstone and the general area. Several times the bee dive-bombed her, and buzzed insistently around her head, but it never stung her. She grew increasingly exasperated and finally she snapped, “Oh for God’s sake, Sam, leave me alone!” and the bee buzzed away. To her dying day, she claimed that damn bee was my father’s spirit, making her as crazy in death as he had in life. (As if she needed any help, right? I know…)

I am of two minds about supernatural phenomena: on one hand/mind, I firmly believe there is incontrovertible evidence proving their existence. On the other hand, my rational brain says, “Pah! Balderdash! Pshaw!” and other old-man expressions of disgust and dismissal. This dichotomy however does not prevent me from reading, being scared by, and thoroughly enjoying a well-written ghost tale, occasionally.

The very first book I can remember scaring the pants off me was Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot. You may think me very silly but to this day, I can’t look out of the bathroom window at night without a little shiver. Call me nuts, but you go read it and then tell me it doesn’t have the same effect on you.

The Shining scared me to death too, and I can’t go into the bathroom at night without a split second of, “Oh God, what if there is a dead woman in the bathtub? PLEASE don’t let there be a dead woman in the bathtub…”

(I am beginning to see a pattern here – but c’mon, I am pregnant, I pee six times a night!)

A little closer to home is Ghost Stories of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County, penned as a sort of senior thesis by Beth Trapani. This is the sort of book that is really only fun to read if you are familiar with the local stories and real estate. I used to work at the Pittsburgh Playhouse, and took a couple classes at CCAC’s North campus, so it was fun to read about the haunting in those places – after the fact.

Mostly, I tend usually to steer away from scary books, as believe it or not, I really don’t enjoy being scared. I am home often enough by myself at night that I see no point in frightening myself with stories of specters and poltergeist when I am nervous enough about real-life burglars, home invaders, and vandals wandering the streets of the city. The dog growling at something I can’t see, or the cat looking intently at a distant point, is enough to make me uneasy. Is someone stealing the porch furniture, or smashing my tomatoes, or, God forbid, cavorting with the undead in the alley? (The undead might be an improvement on the occasional drug dealers...)

The fact is that, once Halloween passes, the menace in the air will disappear, the spookies and creepy-crawlies will retreat for another year, and everything will revert to its usual non-supernatural scariness: drug dealers and burglars and John Ashcroft, oh my.

But you know, if you have any creepy stories to share, please do. It’s not Halloween yet, and I could use a good fright. And I don’t just mean the glimpse I catch of myself in the mirror in the morning.


* Dracula, by Bram Stoker


Peg said...

After reading Salem's Lot I used to have to sing "Jesus Loves Me" to myself every time I went down in our basement in our old house on Staten Island. It was a lovely old arts-and-crafts house, wooden and creaky, and the unfinished basement was spooky even before I read that stupid book. As for the song... vampires hate crucifixes, so it seemed like a logical choice. As logical as having to sing to yourself every time you go do the laundry.

Anonymous said...

A bee stung me at my grandmother's funeral.

Badger said...

Oh dude. Do I ever have some stories. You know that one of the things I do, in addition to the palm reading, is clear physical spaces/objects of negative energy, right? So yeah.

And how did I not know that you had ancestors from the Carpathian Mountains? Did that just slip my mind? Because my great-grandpa was born and raised in the Transylvanian Alps, and I'm convinced that's where I get most of my weirdness. (I also have family in Appalachia, which accounts for the rest of the weirdness. What is it with mountains?!)

Iamthebookworm said...

I love scary stories. There are lots of ghost stories here in Virginia. I've never seen a ghost, but I like the idea sometimes. I just like to be scared.

sara said...

I loved this post! Very seasonal. It made me want to write about all of my spooky experiences (which aren't mine since I haven't had any, really, merely hand-me-down spooky experiences from other people.)

The bathroom window from Salem's Lot had precisely the same effect on my husband, too.

Sarah Louise said...

my initial comment was too long and not really related but I'm posting it on my blog since I've now read the entire script of "The one where Monica and Richard are friends."

Rather see than be one--you are a funny great writer, my dear.



Jess said...

I've never had any spooky experiences, but my mom claims to have seen a Pearl Harbor ghost as a kid, living in military housing in Hawaii. She was in bed, and they were expecting her uncle to arrive that night, so when she saw someone in the hallway she thought it must be him - but then she realized it wasn't and pulled the covers up over her head. When she peeked, he was right there - not her dad, not her uncle - but some other man, bending over the bed as if he were checking on his sleeping child. My mom always gives me the creeps when she tells this story.

Kathy said...

I've never had any spooky experiences; the closest is right before my uncle died, he smiled and said, "Hi, Annie!" Annie was my mother and she'd died several years before my uncle.

Salem's Lot is the only book that has ever scared me.

Joke said...

Incidentally, if you have a ghost hanging around, that means it's a soul in Purgatory.

You need to pray a novena (Divine Mercy is good, but a regular Rosary works) for the repose of his (or her) soul, and you're good to go.


Caro said...

My ghost story is rather boring. A few times when we first moved in, I felt a cat jump on the bed and walk towards me. It wasn't our cat though.