I made a new friend at British Fest last month and we have become penpals, because both of us enjoy letters that come via the Post Office. I like email for speed and convenience. I like texting for even speedier convenience. But for an actual long-distance conversation, I am still very much a fan of the written letter. I have to type mine because my penmanship has devolved into random squiggles. My friend, however, has a collection of antique fountain pens and a cursive hand that is just absolutely gorgeous.
His name is David and we wound up talking to each other when we were seated at the same table for dinner on the last night of the Fest. It turns out that he and his wife (also a very charming person) are from Parkersburg, West Virginia. And I said to him, "Parkersburg? The place that had the flood?" Although they assured me that Parkesrburg has had more than one flood, I told them that I was referring to one that happened early in the 1900's and was caused by the collapse and rupture of two water towers. It happened at night (doesn't it always?) and sent literally millions of gallons of water running downhill into the town. Houses were flooded and then washed away with no warning, and people died, drowned, in that dark and unexpected flash flood.
David knew about that and said that he actually had a couple of antique postcards that depicted the event.
And then I fessed up and said that I knew about it from watching a ghost story show. True that - it was featured on an episode of The Dead Files.
And then we started talking about ghosts.
Segue to my receiving his first letter last week. Not only was it awesome to get some handwritten mail, but he had included a personal ghost story in the letter! I was thrilled. As he put it, it was a "little story." It involved being in an abandoned hospital/asylum -with permission- and taking photographs. He said that at one point as he was climbing the stairs, carefully, to the third floor, he dropped his lens cap and heard it bounce a few times on the steps below him before settling somewhere. Since his hands were full of equipment, he figured he would finish climbing the stairs, set his things down, and then go looking for his lens cap. And when he went down to do so, he found the cap sitting on one of the newel posts, as it would have been had someone picked it up and set it there for him to find. Of course, no one else was in the building. And he had heard it bouncing around, so he doubts it bounced up to a newel post and parked itself there. He called out "Thank you!" and proceeded to take his pictures. (Brave man; I might have left!)
So indeed, it is a little story. But I think sometimes the little ones are the best. Just some little detail that can't quite be explained away, and yet there it is. And to me, those are the ones that are always indicative of a true haunting: the items that go missing and can't be found no matter how hard they are searched for, only for them to turn up in a very obvious place weeks later (been there, done that); the door that opens for you when your hands are full and you can't figure out how you're going to get all your stuff into the house; the reaction the cat or the dog has to something you can't see; the reaction your baby or small child has to something you can't see; the remote control car or the vocalizing toy that starts itself up out of nowhere, with no one anywhere near the controls, frequently in the middle of the night. I have a feeling we've all of us experienced this kind of thing. And it's always just enough to cause a chill, or a quick minute of goosebumps. Little hauntings. Subtle. But definitely there.
The other day I was home alone and trying to read something when the washing machine reached the absolutely noisiest and most disturbing point in its cycle. And then the laundry room door closed itself while I was at the other end of the house, effectively muffling the noise. I heard the door shut and went to check; yup, it was closed.
Okay. Uh, thanks. Whoever you are. Come back when the rest of the family is here, okay?