Growing Up Haunted: Childhood Memories
Do You Hear A Bump in the Night?
October is just a few days away which means spooky season is upon us. I thought to myself why should we wait until October to talk about the things that go bump in the night, and instead start the month early with one of my own stories.
Growing up, I loved to watch scary movies until wee hours of the morning too frightened to go to bed. I couldn't get enough of it. Murders and ghost stories were some of my favorite. Until it became real.
When I was 11 years old my dad purchased a 1889 Victorian style house from his business partner. Inside, the crown molding stood bold along the 12 foot tall ceilings tiled with decorative tin. The original windows also stretched skyward letting in rays of light, especially around the curved window seat. A spiral staircase lead to a large foyer upstairs where three good sized rooms broke off.
Even though the characteristics of the house made it feel warm and cozy there was still a coldness.
The outdated paint colors, the feeling the house was constantly dirty due to the dustiness an old house carries, and the uneasy feeling one received in particular parts of the house seemed off putting.
The renters who were still living in the house when my dad purchased it seemed somewhat out of a strange Tim Burton film. The husband and stepdad, was large and booming in tone who keep the entire house up at night with his roaring snores. The wife dyed her hair a dark red and spiked it as a momager would, and then their was the daughter, quiet but 'boy crazy' who just had her first child 5 months earlier.
They were supposed to move to Alaska as the husband's job recently relocated there, but for some reason, I can't remember now, it didn't happen right away. My dad being the nice guy he is let them stay in the house until they could find a temporary place to live. During that time, I got to know the family and their animals. Phantom, their 5 month old husky, ended up being mine who I would end up howling with for hours on end.
Living with the family was different than anything I'd ever grown up with, but somehow we were making it work.
The longer I stayed though the more I became aware of the ever growing fear when I would enter parts of the house which seemed slightly off. The first and most obvious was the unfinished basement. Not even the basement itself, but the stairs to the basement were frightening. I refused to go down them scared I would tumble to my death with the small wooden door launched shut from the outside stopping my fall.
Even though I'd been in the basement several times, for some reason I could never picture it past the point of the wooden stairs, which once you were in it was perfectly fine. Something felt as if it was blocking me from the area and I took it as a sign to stay away.
Another strange part of the house was the only bathroom located on the main floor past the dining room. The door was often closed and you would have to swing the door outwards and step into the darkness to turn on the light. This didn't seem like a problem until about 6 months in when I began to realize there felt like a presence waiting behind the door ready to grab my hand when I'd reach in.
Even though nothing ever did happen I would often ask my dad to turn the light on for me in case something did finally appear.
Next was the storage area under the stairwell found along the other wall off the dinning room. Nothing too unusual there as it was carpeted, and housed the vacuum along with some Christmas decorations. Either way something felt off and I often avoided this area of the house as much as possible.
I remember the first time something strange happened. All of us, except for the baby sound asleep upstairs, resided in the living room, watching a movie, when I suddenly heard thumping making its way down the stairs. We all turned to witness one of Phantom's tennis balls, which he never played with, bounce slowly down each step and come to a rest on the final stair. I remember the family peering at each other with side glances as my dad sat, unbothered.
It happened a few days later and this time I took note of the cats and dog being in the room with us along with the looks of 'hey did you see that" once more. During this time the unnerving fear grew more intense.
Since there were only three bedrooms, with the family taking up 2 of them, meant I had to stay in my dad's room until they moved. Not that it mattered, because I would've been in there nightly on my own accord due to how scared I was to sleep.
I remember the first night I had the dream. Rolling over in bed I opened my eyes slowly, and there standing over me were two young children. A girl around my age and a boy around the age of 8 both with dusty blonde hair. They stood in silence, their dark sunken eyes meet mine with faces whiter than the old fashioned pajamas falling from their shoulders. The only color a harsh red spread over their body in patches.
I felt the fear rise from my core and suddenly I was awake for real. But I knew better than to open my eyes fully. Because if I did I knew the boy and girl would be staring at me from the edge of the bed. Instead, I peeked through my lashes seeing I was facing towards my dad's back. Oh how I hoped he would wake or roll over to make them go away. But that didn't happen. Instead, I stayed frozen unable to move a muscle until the first rays of light made their was through the window and the lingering feeling of beginning watched washed away.
Tired from the night before I remember slipping into unconscious pretty easily the next night the fear, gone.
But it didn't last long as I started dreaming. I found myself walking down the stairs turning towards the dinning room and facing the storage room door. On the outside a lock was latched. Twisting it, the door creaked open. Inside, the Christmas decorations and nicely carpeted room were replaced with a dirt floor, and huddled in the corner were two children. Their heads shot up and we held each other's gaze.
I recognized them as the same children from my previous dream, but this time I was watching them. Their eyes told the story I didn't need to hear out loud. They were sick and to make sure they didn't spread whatever illness they had were locked under the stairwell. Their parents leaving them there unfed and scared until they perished.
When I woke from this dream, my eyes still closed, I couldn't feel or move my legs. In the dark, I quickly started patting around waking my dad in the process until the I felt the fur. Phantom had fallen asleep curled up between my legs which I criss-crossed making for a perfect bed for him to lay. The moonlight showed him staring in the same spot the child stood in my dream the night before. Phantom wouldn't take his eyes off the spot until my dad finally moved him giving my legs some relief.
Little did I know I would repeat those same two dreams over and over again.
It wasn't long after when strange noises crackled their way through the baby monitors spread throughout the house. It seemed more frequent and only while the baby slept. The animal's toys also seemed to find their way down the stairs during this time always coming to a rest at the last step.
Eventually you could start hearing words being spoken to the baby. They seemed like kind hushed words that belonged to children. I, not being a fan, finally asked the daughter what she thought was going on.
She leaned in looking around suspiciously, "We didn't want to tell you, but there are ghosts in this house. Two children, a boy and a girl. I can see their auroras. I think they were sick when they died here."
Her words cemented the fear which had been rising since day one of us moving in. I was growing up haunted.
Eventually the family moved out and the ghost activity seemed to settle for some time. I was still scared to fall asleep at night knowing I'd dream of the children sick and scared under the stairwell.
But just as fast as it stopped the activity started up again. This time a little more physical. At night I would hear footsteps up and down the spiral stairs which always ended right outside my bedroom door. Once, during the day, as I changed clothes my closet door, which hadn't been opened for years due to the fact it was impossible to open, swung open so fast whacking me hard against my back with Phantom barking instantly. Of course, I ran for my life afraid to look at what Phantom was barking at in the closet. When I ran into my dad at the end of the stairs he asked what had happened seeing the fear in my eyes. My only response, "The ghosts," then made my way back upstairs finding Phantom staring at a now closed closet door.
Eventually, I moved my bedroom downstairs in hopes it would stop, but instead, I would be woken up to the sounds of furniture scraping against the floor upstairs. I would roll over to see the time 3 am on the dot every night. When I asked my dad if he heard anything his reply was always the same, "No."
Throughout the years I had several friends spend the night. I never told them about the strange feelings about the house or children ghosts, but whenever someone would come over they would tell me how scared they were of the bathroom. Just like I would ask my dad, they would ask me to turn on the bathroom light as something didn't seem right. I had to pretend I wasn't scared hoping they wouldn't notice how quickly I would flick the switch. Not that it mattered, because most of the activity happened when I was by myself.
Besides my dreams, I'd never physically seen the ghost children, but that changed when one day I was grabbing food from the kitchen. Bending down behind the fridge door I rummaged around the shelves hoping to find something good. When I finally popped my head up, there standing on the other side was the little girl. Only for a split second did she stare then move towards the outer room which held the basement stairs. In the moment, I was indifferent watching as the her white, almost clear self dissipated into her surroundings.
The older I got the less frequent the activity was heard around the house. The furniture scraping changed to being woken up at all hours of the night due to our new cat who would run from room to room. Phantom would bark less and less towards the bathroom and stairwell doorway while I eventually stopped having the dreams about the children.
The Final Haunting
It'd been almost a year since the last time the ghost children made their presence known. I was no longer afraid to fall asleep at night, and I was able to turn the bathroom light on by myself.
For my birthday, I decided to paint my room as a gift to myself. All day I painted barely able to reach the edges meeting the ceiling. It snowed outside the day before which meant I had to leave the windows closed unable to expel the paint fumes in the room. Happy with my work I placed all my supplies on a wooden console table I used to display my knick knacks and left the door open to let the room breath a bit.
That night, my dad and I stayed up late talking in the living room when we both stopped to look at each other. "Did you hear that?" we both asked. "I heard a door close," I said getting up to look towards my bedroom. "I heard children laughing," he responded.
I'd been right a door did close. Mine in fact. I quickly opened it and stepped in. The living room light illuminating my way. There on the floor were all my painting supplies perfectly placed next to each other. The windows which had been left closed were now fully open letting the below freezing temperatures in and on the windows...little kid hands imprinted in the frost left from the snow.
If this had been years earlier I would have refused to go back into my room, but this time around I pushed the window frames shut, wiped the prints away with my sleeve, and picked up the stuff on the floor happy they didn't spill any left over paint.
I was no longer scared and I'd never heard anything else from the ghost children again while we lived there.
It's been about 11 years since we moved out of the house, but I often think back to the time. Do the ghost children still reside there and are the current residents experiencing the same things we did? I will never know.
If you grew up haunted like I did. or experienced ghosts in general, tell me in the comments below! You can also check out my last Childhood Memoires post Back to Writing 101 where a teacher of mine gave me a big red X which still haunts me to this day.