Ancestral energy lives in the stars above us, the stones beneath us. Their memory gathers in oceans, rivers and seas. It hums its silent wisdom within the body of every tree.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Spirit World: A Haunting at White Street

What follows is a true story that happened to me in college after the house I was living in had been empty for a month. I’ve tried not to embellish. It’s not a horror story. It’s just my story.
I was living in a house off-campus with friends. It was winter break and I was at home with my family. One of my housemates called me late at night. She’d gone back to school early and was alone in our house. She was downstairs watching television and heard someone walking down the hallway upstairs. She was spooked enough that she called me to tell me she wasn’t going up there until it was light out. She was not someone prone to moments like that. So when she said she heard footsteps, while she was talking to me, I believed her.
The next day I went back earlier than I had planned only to find that she hadn’t stayed. I walked into an empty house late at night and took my groceries into the kitchen. I put the stuff that needed to go in the fridge away and left the rest in the paper bag on the counter until morning. I loved that kitchen. There was a small pantry space with floor to ceiling wooden doors, like small ornate cubbies. And then in the kitchen proper were the normal cabinets and sink and, like every good college house, a stove whose pilot light had to be re-lit every other day.
I went upstairs to my bedroom, fell asleep, and had a weird dream… my landlord brought a work crew into the house to install a security system that was really like spyware. He didn’t think anyone was home. In the dream, the installation woke me up and I went downstairs to see what was going on and chased him out of the house for being there without permission.
Our landlord wasn’t the kind of person to actually allow himself into the house like other landlords I’ve had, but he did drive by every day, out of his way, to make sure we weren’t burning the place down. (One time he did wake us at 7 am with the soothing sounds of a table saw in the basement, which he had designated as his personal storage room.) So it wasn’t the context of the dream that was strange. It was the realness of how it felt, more like déjà vu than a dream.
I woke to the sound of the television on downstairs, blaring the studio audience from Jerry Springer or Jenny Jones- some show like that. Maybe my housemate had come back, I thought. But I knew that if she had she would have woken me up to tell me so. I bolted out of bed, reaching for a nearby hammer.
As soon as my feet hit the floor I woke up. But the sound of the television was clearer and louder, not fading into dream world. My heart was thudding in my chest and I went to my bedroom door trying to calm myself down.
I opened the door and the television was blaringly loud. I took a breath and stepped out into the hallway and the house became utterly still, pin-drop silent. Now I was confused. I stepped back into my bedroom and the television sounds blared back to life in the living room beneath me. I hopped back and forth a few times but it was consistent- silence in the hallway, sounds of life downstairs in my bedroom. In one of those screw-your-courage-to-the-sticking-place moments, I hefted my hammer and crept downstairs slowly through the quiet that met me when I passed through the bedroom doorway.
The house was empty. The first thing I did was check the front door but everything was locked up as I’d left it the night before. The second thing I did was check the television. It was cold, not even remotely warm. I held my breath and turned it on to some morning news program. I relaxed and laughed at myself a bit, then moved to check the other rooms to be sure all was well.
Inside the kitchen, every single cupboard door in the pantry was standing open, including the ones none of us could reach. The fridge door was hanging open. The freezer door was open. The kitchen cupboards above the sink were wide open and all of the cupboard doors below the counter and sink were open. The items I had left in the brown grocery bag were outside of it, lined up on the counter in a row.
I ran to the door leading down into the basement assuming there’d been a break-in. But it was still double-locked, insuring no one could get in from the other side. I left everything where it was and went back up to my bedroom, with my hammer. I locked the door behind me and called another friend to talk through what happened. Four hours later she was at my door, also back to school earlier than planned.
She saw the kitchen and we went to my room so I could pack a quick bag. She was sitting, facing my doorway, when I heard footsteps in the hall. So did she. I saw her face drain of color as the footsteps passed by the doorway. My friend saw a shadowy shape. We both listened to the footsteps going up the attic stairs. We left quickly and I stayed away until my other housemates came back and the house was full again.
There was nothing afterwards.

Looking Back
I think it’s important to note that at the time, I never felt unsafe or that my life was in danger. It was still a little too close to the line of “unexplainable” and that’s what scared me. That’s what I didn’t want to be alone with. Any doubt I had disappeared in the shared experience with my friend. It happened. I can’t explain it, but to erase it from my history, for that reason alone, would be a worse tragedy.
What I think now, is that he was a lonely spirit, still attached to his humanity, who got restless when the house was empty. Maybe it was too clear a reminder that he existed separate from the living world. Once the house was full again he was quiet. I don’t know if he was attached to the house or drawn to our energy, or just passing through.
I think about that moment often as one I can’t explain away, and one I don’t need to. I’m not afraid of things that go bump in the night. I only want to know their stories.

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