My Life with Ghosts, continued: The Dream in Red and Other Events

Here is the latest installment of my stories from when I lived in a haunted house. I documented the “events” as they happened (as a way of dealing with my fear, I suppose), and these particular entries are from the year 2008. It’s only now that I feel comfortable sharing what I wrote at the time, for the entire experience was strange, inexplicable, and sometimes frightening. I can honestly say that upon emptying “The House” over 5 years ago, the hauntings completely ceased. And after moving from The House, nothing like it has  occurred since…

My Life with Ghosts, continued: The Dream in Red and Other Events

Christmas card from late 1920’s- early 1930’s. Harold (my father-in-law) as a little boy with his grandfather, C.H. C.H. built and ran a cotton mill in a small Alabaman town in the 1920’s. In 1932, C.H.’s life ended with his murder–and a mystery which we possibly solved through a note found in our attic. But that’s another story for another time…

August 18, 2008: The Figure
It has been nearly five months since my last “ghostly” event. The peace during these long breaks from the disturbances is welcomed. I can almost imagine that we live in a normal, red-brick house in an average neighborhood.
But unfortunately, I woke up yesterday morning with a hankering to go visit the attic. So up we go, Lee resigning himself to the dirty, frustrating, and always sad task. With this particular excursion, however, we would be rewarded.
I sent Lee to the rafters to explore the detritus that had been tossed out into the darkness, then left momentarily while I went downstairs to take care of my nine-year-old son. When I came back up, I asked the usual question: “Did you find anything?”
Instead of the gruff response I normally get, Lee actually sounded excited: “You’re not going to believe what I found!” He held up a picture mounted onto a thin wooden frame, approximately six feet by three feet in size. It was a vintage poster of Santa Claus! Most likely an old store display, it had probably been lying there, face down on the wooden beams, for over fifty years.
Encouraged, we scoured around and found a few more Christmas related items, a box full of cotton mill related papers (Lee’s family had built and managed a cotton mill in Alabama in the 1920-30’s), and some personal items, including a wallet that had belonged to his great-grandfather (who I’ve nicknamed “C.H.”). We even dared to reopen a full to the brim trunk where, years earlier, we had found a Buffalo Bill autograph. But after rummaging through its contents for a few moments, we decided to leave it for another day. It was just too daunting a task.
Early the next morning, before daybreak, I was having trouble sleeping. A noise kept awakening me. I looked around for Lee, but he was already up, working on the computer down the hall. I went back to sleep. This went on for a while, my waking up, then drifting off. I finally opened my eyes, and as they focused, I saw a dark figure standing at the foot of my bed, watching me. At first I thought it was Lee, but the figure immediately dissipated. I had no time to reflect on this strange occurrence. I had overslept and had to hurry to get the kids ready for school.
I told Lee about the incident over breakfast. He replied, as if it were the most ordinary of things, that with our visit to the attic the previous day,  we had once again stirred up the souls. And off he rushed to work.
Later, when things were quiet, I thought about the figure. It was unlike the previous “sightings” for I had no sense of who this being might be. My quick impression was that he had been dressed in dark clothing, perhaps a black suit or a black coat, almost military like. The figure had dark eyes and his hair was black, parted and neatly combed to the side. I had the feeling he was from the distant past, as if he had stepped out of a photograph from the late 1800’s. (Could he be the twin from the ambrotype?) His presence was not threatening in any way. If anything, I felt he was simply observing me, watching, waiting.
I wondered, like so many times before, if I had been dreaming and if this dream had been triggered by the finding of Lee’s great-grandfather’s wallet the previous day. I recalled that the wallet contained a hunting license that had a description of C.H. from the year 1926. I retrieved it and read:

Age – 52
Color of hair – grey
Eyes – brown
Height – 6 feet
Weight – 175

But this description of C.H. was nothing like the figure that I had seen. And judging from family photos, the figure did not resemble Barney, or Harold, or Martin, or any of the other presences I have stumbled across since living in this house. Now I am worried, for I have someone new, something else from the unknown to deal with…

November 2, 2008: Voices
It was a quiet Sunday, full of sun and blue sky. We were all quietly going about our business, working on the computer, reading, cleaning…
Independent of each other and unbeknownst to one another, my children both heard their name called. It had not been me; it had not been my husband. My son heard the voice in the morning, my daughter in the afternoon. I told my daughter, who was playing in her room which had once been Harold’s, that perhaps it was the girls next door that she had heard. She said no. It had been the voice of a strange sounding man.

November 30, 2008: Dream in red
It was the end of our Thanksgiving break and I was scurrying around trying to make sense of the chaos that accompanies the end of that holiday and the immediate beginning of the next. Somehow, in my warped mind, it seemed that a storage chest would be helpful in the transition. Hence began what I referred to as “The Chinese Puzzle.” That is to say, if you move one thing from its place in our house, it unleashes a torrent of puzzle solving necessary to restore order. We moved my son’s chest to the hall to store “junk,” then put in my son’s room another chest which we dragged down from the attic–a nice cedar one which once held Gretchen’s things. And of course, in the few moments that we were up in the attic, we made a couple of interesting finds–a vintage framed print of Stone Mountain, and a 1940’s calendar with a print by well known graphic artist which we put on eBay. It sold immediately.
But in those few brief moments, we had dared to disturb the sanctuary of the attic and we paid for our crime that night…
I had been sleeping soundly when suddenly, something awakened me. As I opened my eyes, I was shocked to discover that everything in the bedroom was washed in a rich, velvety red. Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted through the crack in the partially open door a quick movement followed by a flash in the hall, as if someone was scurrying past while carrying a light. I wondered if an intruder was in the house. I whispered “Lee” but he was sound asleep.
I got out of bed and went to look out the window, thinking perhaps the red light that bathed my room was coming from a car pulling into the driveway next door. But all was still. I then tiptoed to the living room, and it was just as I had left it earlier that evening. By the time I got back in bed, my eyes had adjusted to being awake and my room was back to its normal black and white, middle of the night, darkness.
The next day, my husband recalled that I had walked around the room the previous night. But other than that, what had been a dream and what had been real, I’ll never know…

These “paranormal” stories of mine could probably go on forever (and probably will). Are they dreams? Ghosts? Divine inspirations?
I have faced the common theme of sadness over loss head on through my stories of living with ghosts. But my questioning has raised yet another issue which is beyond my realm of comprehension. And that question is, what happens to all of our emotions–love, anger, frustration, desires, and so on–after we die? It doesn’t seem possible that they simply dissipate at the moment of our last breath. That seems like such an ordinary and useless end for all the extraordinary feelings we carry within for all of our days.
I begin to wonder. Is that what I am experiencing in The House? The leftover passion of daily life originating from those who came before me? But I struggle with the fact that it is very possible that there are simply some events in life that have no explanation and never will. And I suspect that even the cumulative power of all the lives that currently reside in our house, including those of our children and those of all of the various pets who fill the rooms with their simple and beautiful existences, are not enough to send the stubborn spirits on their way.
With our “adventures” in our house, I have opened my mind to the improbable. So my days with the dead, my days with the living continue. And the lessons to be learned from both continue as well…

(to be continued…)

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