Monday, June 29, 2015

That (Other) Thing in the Basement

Image result for ghosts with chains

Two things to know about me: 1. I never thought boys had cooties (I was always boy-crazy, even when I was, like, five years old) and 2. I went to an all-girls Catholic High School in Chicago. I will also add that going to that high school probably upped my hunting and gathering skills considerably. I'm not talking about shopping: I'm talking about boys.

Another thing: I went to college in the early to mid-70's. (Yes, I am that age. I'd rather discuss my age and my weight any day over my religion, but that's an aside.) 

All of that said, I entered my Freshman year of college habitually on the prowl. Just ask Jim. Because it was the early to mid-70's, the folkways and mores about dating were somewhat removed from the more going-steady sort of mindset of the earlier decades. In other words, we dated a lot, and not exclusively. I think at one point I was seeing about five different guys at the same time, most of whom knew about the others, and so what? No one wanted to go steady. Or at least, I didn't tend to date guys who weren't like-minded. Which leads me to a certain young man I started dating my first year of college. We met in German class. He had a cute face, a decent sense of humor, and eyes that were ridiculously blue. He had a couple of other traits that came out later, but that's the point of this piece, I guess.

He was a sci-fi freak (I eventually married one, so even though I am not blissfully in love with the genre, we are companionable enough) and one of our dates was to go to the newly-released Sean Connery movie, "Zardoz." If you have seen this movie, I don't have to say another word. If you have not seen this movie, let me say that the best thing about it was that I heard Beethoven's Seventh for the first time on the soundtrack, and for me, that was kind of the peak of the entire show.

Anyhow, we went to the movie, probably went out for dessert, and came back to my folks' house to hang around. I have no idea what we did until two in the morning, and that's the truth. To this day, I have no idea if this guy was a decent kisser or not, so that tells you what we didn't do for those several hours between arriving home and his departure. But somehow, during the course of our casual dating, I had let slip that I lived in a haunted house. He was a huge skeptic about it, to the point of mocking. That was all right. I knew my house was haunted and no matter what he said or ridiculed, nothing was going to change that. Ah, but something in my house had a sense of humor.

I walked him to the door when it was time for him to leave. It was, as I mentioned, somewhere around two in the morning. We were the only two people on the entire first floor. My parents were asleep upstairs. My sister was still out, and both of my brothers had long since left the nest. My date and I stopped at the front door for a good-night kiss -the height or romance for us, apparently- and he said something like, "You told me that your house was haunted but I haven't seen or heard anything to prove it."

I just kinda smiled and answered, "You don't always."

So he put his arms around me and was leaning in for a smacker, when all of a sudden a very strange noise began in the basement, just below where we were standing. He stopped and pulled away and asked, well, demanded, "What was that?"

It sounded like something heavy being dragged across a floor. With chains. If I had hired a Hollywood effects crew, I couldn't have asked for a more haunted house cliche noise. Seriously. "I don't know," I said.

He wasn't satisfied. "I mean it. What is that?"

And I said, "I don't know; I've never heard that before." And that was the truth. I had heard crying babies, singing children, furniture being moved, coins being dropped, but I had never heard -nor did I ever again hear- the sound of a heavy, chained weight being dragged around down in the basement. And here's the punchline, which I include for my niece in Texas: from the location of the sound, this was all happening in a room that was kept locked, with a full array of movable shelves stacked with toys and books placed across the doorway. A room I had never entered in my life. So I told him that.

And he left. To this day, I think he suspects I set something up, even though it had nothing to do with me. We never dated again. But it turned out that living in a haunted house that performed almost on cue wasn't enough to lose a date and potential boyfriend. 

Being about to test for a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, however, decidedly was.


  1. Aaaaaah! That room making you sick was bad enough. Now I'm REALLY glad I never went in there!

  2. Think of all the fun stuff you missed in that house!