Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Fiction of Fright...or not...fiction that is.

I'm thrilled to have my story "Spirits of the Corn" featured in the October Issue of eFiction Magazine. If you like a good fright, I highly recommend you read this issue, It's chock-full of Halloween horror. I enjoy scary stories, and LOVE Halloween. I admit, I have a bit of a dark side.

As much as a fictional tale of terror can inspire nightmares, I have a ghost story to share that is absolutely non-fiction.

When my husband and I bought our first home, there was no history of horrible crime, death, or unexplained noises. Other than us being the tenth occupants in its forty years, there was nothing special about the house.

At the time Duffy, our border collie mix, was in his later years and quite sedate. Sometimes, our neighbors had to step over his sleeping body on the porch to get to the door; not much of a watch dog. So I was quite surprised one afternoon, when he refused to come in the house. Not as in, I'm-napping-in-the-warm-sun-bug-off, don't want to come in; but tail-tucked-hackles-raised-feet-firmly-planted-not-a-chance-in-heck-I'm-coming-in-there, don't want to come in.

When I finally dragged the struggling animal in the door, he took one look down the basement stairs, snarled, then turned tail and ran. I finally found the terrified pooch hiding under a table, and when I bent down to talk to him, my normally lethargic dog snapped at me. This was the worst episode, but there were others when our dog seemed nervous, and had a problem with the basement in particular.

(A side note, purely for effect, but absolutely factual: our house was a Dutch colonial – the Amityville Horror house, was a Dutch colonial. And in our basement there was a funky little storage room tucked under the concrete front porch. To enter it, you had to climb through a small opening in the basement wall. The opening was covered with a thick wooden door complete with wrought iron latch. The room's craggy walls and ceiling were covered in cobwebs, and floor was nothing more than dirt. Other than peeking in when we bought the house, we never went in there or used it for anything. It was just too creepy. Only in the movies would someone ACTUALLY go in there, despite the audience screaming not to.)

There was also the sound of running footsteps, always late in the evening. It's a two-story house and the footsteps were always heard from the living room on the first floor, so we knew it wasn't just a squirrel on the roof. Our son was a year and a half old, so when we heard the foot steps racing above our heads, we naturally assumed that he had climbed out of his crib and was sprinting around his room. Every time we'd hear the thump, thump, thump, of running feet, we'd race upstairs to find our son sound asleep. We found this occurrence curious and intriguing, but not frightening.

The event that hammered home that something other-worldly might be going on happened many months later. I'd laid down next to our son, who was now in a big bed and had trouble settling for the night. My back was starting to ache from lying so still. He had been quiet for a while, but I wasn't brave enough to move yet.

I was longing to go back down to the living room, so I turned my gaze from the darkened room out into the brightly lit hallway. There, in the doorway, stood the silhouette of a man. I assumed my husband had come up to check on us. I held a finger to my lips to warn him not to say anything, lest our son wake up. I turned my head, for just a moment, to check if our son was truly asleep. When I turned back, the man was gone.

Although my original assumption had been that the figure had been that of my husband, the way he seemed to appear and disappear without so much as a creak of the stairs bothered me. The whole episode was so brief, I questioned whether or not it had been real. Had I imagined it? Maybe, I had unknowingly dozed off and dreamt it. But it felt real.

When I was sure it was safe for me to leave, I went downstairs to find my husband sitting on the sofa reading the newspaper. I sat down next to him. “Did you come up to check on us?”

My husband lowered the paper, his eyebrows drawn together. “Why do you ask?”

“I thought I saw you outside the door,” I answered.

Dropping the paper into his lap, my husband shook his head. “Wow, that's weird.”

“What's weird?” I questioned.

He paused. “Have you ever had one of those times, when you see something moving out of the corner of your eye, but when you look, there's nothing there, so you just write it off as your imagination?”

I nodded.

“Well,” he said, “I was sitting down here reading the paper while you were upstairs and I could have sworn someone went up the stairs.”

My flesh tightened into goosebumps so hard it was almost painful.

Now I can hear some of you screaming in your head, “Run away! Get out of the house!” It's never that easy. Maybe we really just had a senile dog, funky thumping floorboards, and overactive imaginations. We also considered the fact that if there really was a ghost involved, he certainly didn't seem mean-spirited, rather he seemed friendly, checking in on us, keeping an eye on our child.

Was it a ghost, or did my husband and I have some kind of simultaneous imaginary event, each of us on a different floor of the house? I leave that up to you. But I have to admit, I really like the ghost theory better.

Did I mention how much I love Halloween?


Anonymous said...

I seriously got shivers while reading this blog entry. Yikes! Is it really true? Thanks for sharing, and a very well-timed story for October and Halloween preparation.

Dave Thome said...

That's a pretty good story, Dody. But, please, lets not stereotype Dutch colonials just because of a few bad apples. I live in one, and it has the pleasantest vibe imaginable.

Apparently my mom, sisters and grandma all saw a guy they call "the dapper gentleman" in the guest room of my mom's split-level suburban house. No one's ever been afraid of him. One morning, though, when several of us had slept over at my mom's, my grandma. who'd slept in the room, said, "I had a good sleep--after everyone finally shut up." I said, "But, gram, we all went to bed at the same time." She said, "I don't mean you. I mean all the dead people. They were just going on and on until I finally said, 'Hey, some of us still need to sleep.'"

Nick Nutter said...

If you look at the title of the magazine out of the corner of your eye, it looks like the word "erection". Poor font choices.

D. L. Marriott said...

Yes, it really is a true story - the one about the ghost in my house that is.

Dave - I have nothing against Dutch Colonials. In fact I happen to like them quite a bit, but the similarity of the creepy room in the basement of a Dutch...I just couldn't let that go. Now I live in a house that looks like a castle, but so far no castle ghosts!