Found at the foot of the basement stairs, one of the many vintage bottles discovered among the possessions of the dead…
The Confirmation, Conclusion
One good thing has come out of this latest “haunting.” I begin to write furiously, working on these stories of the dead in particular, with the words becoming my weapons. For the more I fling the words at the paper, the less the incidents occur and the less intimidating they become.
Ultimately, however, I decide that it is time to spend much less time thinking about the past and to get back to the living. And I certainly make a valiant try. But despite this desire, the dead continue to be use me as their conduit for some reason that is beyond my grasp. And the strange events continue…
One night, I swear the ghosts are teasing me. I dream that my children are calling me, but they sound far away as if at the end of a tunnel. I awaken, go to their rooms, but they are fast asleep.
And is this another taunt from the ghosts? On several occasions during my sleep, I hear a “pssst!” sound as if someone is trying to get my attention.
Every night Lee gets up once in the middle of the night to use the restroom off our bedroom. The routine is always the same. Four or so steps to the bathroom, then the squeaking that accompanies the opening and shutting of the old door, followed by his return a minute later. Often I hear this in a half sleep state.
Last night was no different. Except the footsteps were different. I think I was dreaming for they sounded like leather shoes on the wooden floor. The steps were slow and heavy—like those of a tired, elderly person. I heard the familiar squeak of the bathroom door. I think I heard the steps come back. I visualized in my dream an elderly man’s legs, dressed in dark suit pants and slightly bowed. I then pictured a pair of black, worn shoes, old-fashioned in style. The sounds awakened me. I opened my eyes to find Lee in bed beside me, sound asleep. It had not been him walking about. I snuggle closely hoping the contact of our real-life bodies will form a shield against the imaginary ones.
The next morning I asked Lee what kind of shoes his grandfather wore. Why I thought of Barney, I’m not sure. Lee had no idea why I was asking. He answers without hesitation, “black leather shoes.” The expression “spine-tingling” was very appropriate at that moment. I told him of my dream. He shook his head as if it was all too much. He reminded me that our bedroom was once Barney’s.
Our time in “The House” is no longer an interesting adventure. It has become frightening. And I can’t shake the feeling that we are headed towards some kind of crisis.
A footnote to this particular story about Barney’s shoes: I get a call from a friend this morning while writing down these very words. After we hang up, the phone rings again. I pick up the phone, thinking it is her. Dead silence. Another one of those strange “no one at the end of the line” phone calls.
One night, I wake up brushing something away from my mouth. It felt like something sharp, like a fingernail, had been dragged across my lip.
My son gets scared when he hears “funny” voices in the hall that sound like “walkie talkies.” He says accompanying the voices are shadowy shapes like “ghosts.”
Finally, gratefully, the strange experiences begin to subside. But still, I make sure that I am never asleep alone in my bedroom. And I often wake up in the 2-5 A.M. “witching hour” and feel that all too familiar oppressive feeling. It is difficult to breathe, as if the air is choked and heavy with souls.
I tell Lee about this. He replied that there was one recent night when he woke up, and sensed a similar ominous feeling. He wondered if he was about to have another one of those “moments.” He was relieved when he did not.
Over time, I have come up with a theory about the “haunting” of our house. That day when we had cleared out the small area at the bottom of the basement stairs, we had encountered a tangled knot of souls. Upon thinking over the variety of items we handled during that particular purge, it hits me how many deceased people we were dealing with in just a few feet of space. We had revealed Mrs. Warner’s oriental embroideries (and I’m guessing those were her antique books as well); Gretchen’s carefully color-schemed towels; Harold’s obsessive use of baggies to protect the mundane; Barney’s industrial tools and vintage army lighters; and a vast amount of vintage jars likely used by most everyone that had lived there at one time or another.
But it wasn’t just the objects we were untangling, it was the memories as well. Memories of camping trips and vacations; thoughts of childhood and growing up with parents and grandparents; and reflections on all those who have left us and gone on…
It seems to me that the process of extracting the belongings of the dead from their hiding places and exposing them to the light of day, is somehow loosening the bindings of trapped souls. The more we clean and purge, the more we are lessening this strange hold the house has over all those who once lived here. It’s like a giant spider web that, with our help, is slowly coming unraveled, its captives finally falling away.
My question is–and it’s a question I believe that will most likely never be answered–why do the ghosts seem to be trying to get our attention? To make their presence known? To say goodbye? To express their anger? Are they trying to guide us somehow, or to tell us something? Maybe they are asking us to stop our actions, that they don’t want to leave this place that they once called home for so many decades. Or perhaps they are begging to be released. I have to believe that that’s what they want. So we carry on, dismantling memories and lives, piece by piece.
And that is how it goes, in this house of ours…