Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Scary Things in the House: Update

From time to time I like to share with you the things that have been popping up in our home. I’ve told you about the noises that start up when I write my ghost stories. I’ve shared tales about (dead) people my grandson apparently sees from time to time. And I’ve mentioned that since going to Gettysburg (thanks, Gettysburg) I’ve been seeing things that I never used to see. I was fine before that happened, but alas, things changed.

One night a few weeks ago I was heading toward my bedroom. My grandson was already in bed, and the door to his room was shut. Out of habit, I turned my head in that direction as I was about to enter my own room and was startled to see a large, white, being (not sure of gender) standing in front of his door. Fortunately (or not) it was looking in my direction, and not his. I kind of looked at it, ignored it, and went into my room. And I was happy not to see it again when I came back out.

There was also this “thing” hanging from the ceiling in the front hall. I don’t quite know how to describe it, but I was not happy to see it. My daughter once mentioned seeing an apparition of some kind that was hanging down from the living room ceiling. I’ve only heard about apparitions that hang from the ceiling on The Dead Files, and since I’m no Amy Allen, I’m not necessarily prepared for this kind of haunting.

But despite these things, the house has been relatively quiet. Except for the one thing that probably scares me more than the two listed above put together: there’s a creature in our garage.

We had snow here the other day, like so many other parts of the country, and my daughter, who was home for once, decided to be kind and shovel the driveway for us while my husband and I were at work. So she opened the garage door, took out the shovel, and cleared the entire space, which was a wonderful surprise when I got back.

However, that afternoon when I needed something in the garage, I heard a loud rustling noise from the corner by the automatic door. Hmm. That didn’t sound good. So I did what I usually do: I got what I needed, turned out the light, and shut the door. Later that night when I went back to get something out of our second freezer, I was not happy to find a bucket and a box knocked down into the middle of the path. (Our garage is frighteningly cluttered and currently has only a narrow path from front to back, but that’s another story.) I put the items back, but thought again that something had stolen in out of the cold and was exploring our space. I mentioned it to Jim who answered with his characteristic “Uh huh” while he was watching his show, and that was that.

But this morning, the Christmas tree stand was on the floor in the middle of the path. Now, I know that was something that got knocked down. And although I haven’t heard the same rustling sound again, I just KNOW there is something we didn’t invite hanging out in our garage. I know it’s not mice: we’ve had them before and they don’t knock down large objects. I know it’s not a skunk. We’d have figured that out pretty quickly. Raccoon? Aren’t they supposed to be hibernating by now? Squirrel? I can’t believe I wouldn’t have seen the hyper little thing scampering around at some point.

So Jim says he has a “plan” to drive this thing back out into the wild. I say good luck with that, because the temperature outside is holding fast to below freezing and I can imagine this thing just burrowing in deeper so it can stay inside. Still, I hope whatever he’s got in mind works, because I’d probably rather deal with a hanging apparition that just, well, hangs around, than with some destructive little beast that’s loose in our garage.

Looking forward to him carrying out his plan.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Family Historian - And Then Some

Most close families have a family historian. I meant that informally, although I’m sure there are families out there who have someone who has set about chronicling the family history on one side, or maybe even both. I’ve seen classes at community colleges that teach people how to interview their family elders so as to get the kind of information they want. Then they can write up the stories and have them published in a limited edition to be distributed at the holidays. I’ve even seen classes where the family stories are interwoven with handed-down recipes. That’s a great idea because nothing speaks to memory like food! At least, that’s true for me. Especially the scents and aromas that go with particular dishes and treats.

I, on the other hand, would like to archive something different. Never mind the skeletons in the closet, I want to write up ghost stories that my relatives either experienced or heard about. For me, that would be right up there with a family cook/history book.

I’ve already heard quite a few of them, and I’m glad I did because some of those relatives have since passed away. But I remember their ghost and paranormal stories. One involved a shape-shifter. Another was about a time-of-death visit from a favorite uncle. (Come to think of it, I may have one of those myself. I’ll have to ponder on that.) And then there was the one that involved a legendary Chicago-area haunting. That was from my older brother and it was a good one.

But except for the story from my brother, I’ve never written up any of these and I think sometimes that maybe I should. I consider my sister and my younger daughter to be the keepers of the recipes. Both of them are very skilled in the kitchen and while I do make a few of my mother’s dishes, I don’t go at it with the gusto and courage they both exhibit. And I’m always happy to eat what they come up with because they both sure come close to what my mother (a veritable genius at both the stove and the oven) concocted over the years.

I could, however, wax very enthusiastic about family ghost stories: tales having to do with weird phone calls, or mysterious voices, or the sweet old lady by the fireplace who wasn’t really there. Maybe even a doppelganger. As I sit here and write this, more and more tales that I’ve heard from siblings, uncles, aunts, friends of the family, daughters, and cousins, come to the fore. Maybe I’ve already collected more of these accounts than I ever realized. Hmm.

I could see collecting histories and recipes to hand out to the relatives for Christmas. But a volume of family ghost stories? We don’t get together at Halloween. But maybe such a book would be as suitable for Christmas as the recipes. After all, Christmas was when the Victorians told their scary tales around the fire. But I guess if I were to do it, no one would actually be surprised, seeing as how the book would come from me.

It’s a little too late this year to do this for Christmas, 2019. But 2020 or even 2021? I wonder…

Wednesday, October 30, 2019


When asked what costumes they wanted to wear for Halloween this year, both of my grandsons said, “Pennywise.” Despite being fans of Stephen King, both of my daughters said “No” to their son’s request.

I thought it interesting that both of them would choose the costume of a character in a movie neither of them has ever seen (at ages 11 and 9, they’re a little young for IT.) And yet, Pennywise has become part and parcel of the Culture of Fright, and both of them know all about him, even if they haven’t even read the book.

I’ve always wondered if kids who choose scary costumes as opposed to fantasy (princess) or occupational (astronaut) costumes are trying to get a handle on something that otherwise scares them. As if becoming a partner of the thing that frightens them will give them a handle on how to deal with that fear.

If that’s so, maybe my earliest costumes were telling. For two years in a row, I’m guessing Kindergarten and first grade, or maybe first and second grade, I wore the same costume. Part of it was purely economics: the dang thing fit me the second year and so no one had to put out any kind of money to get me a new one. (We weren’t creative about costumes when I was a little kid. We were into Woolworth’s.) So for two years in a row, I dressed up as a devil.

Hmmm. When The Exorcist hit the big screen while I was in college, I lined up to see it like everyone else. I don’t mind saying that the movie traumatized me for years. And I mean years. As terrifying as I found The Haunting the first time I saw it, as freaked out as I was about the sci-fi thriller H-Men, and as disturbed as I was by The Zombies of Moro Tau, nothing ever exploded my psyche like The Exorcist. And I had read the book, too. Something about it struck way too close to home, and I needed a long time to get past it. Maybe I should say, quiet it down. I still won’t watch it. Did I already know I had this particular fear back when I was in early grade school?

A few years later, I made the classic choice and dressed up as a ghost. No, I didn’t cut eyeholes into a sheet and put it over my head. I just used the old sheet like a winding shroud. If I had been clever, I might have cut it up a bit to make it look tattered, but that didn’t occur to me. I just wanted to look like an apparition. I’m sure I mostly just looked like some weird kid wandering the streets in a bedsheet, but what the heck. At least it wasn’t a Casper costume from Woolworth’s.

Still, that fascination with ghosts was already there. At the time, I was too young to be doing sleepovers at friends’ houses, so I didn’t yet realize how different my house was. But clearly something had taken root in my brainbox. Shortly after dressing up as a ghost, I began writing my first ghost stories. I had already started collecting them in print, thanks to Scholastic Book Fairs.

I no longer dress up for Halloween. I haven’t been to a party in years, and I think the last time I donned anything resembling a costume was at my first job in health care. I was working reception and business office and we were invited to dress up for the big day. The first year I turned myself into a skater boy complete with backwards baseball cap, untucked shirt, and a pair of jeans that were huge on me. I nearly got kicked out of the office before they realized it was just me. If I were to be invited to a Halloween party now and dressing up became mandatory, I have no idea what I would wear. I don’t even know what I would want to wear.

I admire adults who still put on fancy dress, and I really admire those who do Cos-play at Comic-Con and events like that. I apparently don’t have the inclination or the skill to put together something really fetching out of a universe I enjoy. I guess that when it comes to costumed characters, I’d still rather just read the book.