Real Life Ghost Stories: Part Three—The Haunted House

I’ve accidentally found myself involved with a group of psychics, accidentally taken part in a séance, and accidentally spent the night in a haunted house. Yes, I do realize that I’m about the most inept sounding para-experienced human around. The haunted house came about after being invited to a sleepover. Except it wasn’t a normal house nor a normal night. It was a well-known haunted house in my community and also it was Halloween night.

According to town legend this house became haunted some time in the recent past. I learned about it’s hauntedness from several family members who as children would throw rocks at the windows and take turns seeing who among them could get the closest to the front door. Pretty much just like in the movies when you see a creepy house and children playing around it.

I won’t go into too much detail other than the family that took it on did a lot of really nice work to the inside and put a lot of love into making it livable again. There was no “story” attached to the history of the house. Nobody died in there, nobody was tortured. It was just one of those things that people believed to be haunted and so it became the town’s haunted house. Every town needs one right?

A friend and I were invited over to a sleepover and my parents were a bit nervous about the idea. Not so much because of the house, but also because the family had connections to a well known serial killer. Oh…forgot to mention that part. Anyway, the connection didn’t weigh too much, since the family was nice. The parents were going to be there, except they’d arrive around dinnertime because they would be coming in from a day trip. All things added up to a fun, safe evening of a teenage romp.

I picked up my friend at her house and we headed over to the sleepover together. We discussed all the cool things we were going to do, it being Halloween and all. Since we were super nerdy, most of those discussions revolved around recreating a science experiment from Chemistry that involved plastic bags and fire.

Probably should leave it at that. Don’t try it at home kids!

But mostly we ended up cooking gourmet food and brownies and staying up all night talking about life, the universe, and which people from high school were the most unlikely to ever leave high school.

Around midnight our host’s parents still hadn’t arrived and we began to drift in an out of sleep. Every so often we’d hear a creak or stutter in the wood. At one point I woke to a door slamming. I tried to be perfectly still, pretend I was sleeping, but something gave me away, because Meghan (my friend who came with me to the sleepover) called out.

“Hey, you awake?” she asked.

“Yeah.”

“Do you hear it?”

I stopped and listened, noticing the sound of angry voices. It was faint. Our door was closed and the voices seemed to be coming from another room across the hall where the door the door was also closed.

“Her parents must be home.” I wanted to be diplomatic, not say too much about the fighting in case our hostess woke and then had to face embarrassment of her parent’s not getting along.

We both lay on our backs, struggling to ignore the now growing argument. At some point we both fell back asleep, only to be jerked awake again by another door slamming and then the hall light came on, casting a glow from the gap under our door. The floorboards of the hallway creaked. The light flickered as if someone were walking the halls. Then after a few minutes the person went back into the room, the door shutting with a hard note of finality.

I heard a sigh from the bed of our host.

“You okay?” we both asked her.

“Yes. It’s fine,” she said.

Meghan and I exchanged glances. It didn’t sound fine, but we also knew people fought and we could have very likely just caught them at a bad time. The argument had seemed distant and cold. Although we couldn’t make out the hushed words of what was spoken, most of the tension happened in the long drawn out silences.

We slept fitfully for the rest of the night, even though there were no more quiet confrontations, only the occasional ticks and cracks and groans from an old house settling in for the night.

In the morning, we made breakfast—or rather our host did since she was really talented with the stove and oven, noting her parent’s were not yet awake. After a while we realized that we were actually alone in the house again. Our host thought about this for a moment, and realized that her parent’s must have gone to church and we all cheered that we had somehow escaped. Meghan and I figured it was our Catholic-ness that maybe earned us our freedom from attending a different church.

We packed our things and put them out into the car, but decided to stick around for a while and chat some more. That was until her parents pulled in, their car covered in snow. Except it didn’t snow in the valley where we were and it would have melted by now if it was from their trip the day before.

The parents rolled in the drive and they waved from their window. “We are so sorry!” they called out. “We got stuck after they closed the freeway last night and had to stay in a hotel. I hope you girls had a fun sleepover. Please let your parents know we’re terribly disappointed we weren’t here to supervise.”

Meghan and I looked at each other confused. Our host appeared a little pale as well. After some questioning and making sure we weren’t punked, Meghan and I decided it was time to leave. The whole trip home we dissected the night’s events. Was it a set up? Did we really experience a visit from the ghosts of the house? Who were they, if not the parents?

We never really settled that one.

I love comments! Every time you leave a comment a ghost will haunt unsuspecting teenagers.

Real Life Ghost Stories Part Two: The Writing Workshop Ghost

Here is a weird little story that has been a hard one to explain for some time now. It’s about the time I accidentally took part in a séance at a writing workshop. On the last day of the workshop we decided that we’d have a last-night-get-to-know-you dinner. Those who were still in town gathered outside of the main hotel and we all walked down to find a nice place to have dinner. Well, not super nice, it was Applebees. Then we were having such a lively discussion that we decided to stick around the hotel lobby and chat.

It only took a short while for the more mischievous of us (me) to find out the business room we’d been using during our workshop was still unlocked. We all shuffled into the more private setting. That’s when things got interesting.

See, writers are not like normal people. We all have our quirks and when left alone to our own devices we start to unleash our overactive imaginations. Some people started declaring special talents, which led to suggestions of tarot card reading. But we didn’t have tarot cards. One person volunteered to drive back to her hotel to get her own personal set, but we didn’t want to go to the trouble. I had index cards in my purse and we tried in vain to remember the tarot card set, but got as far as the death, lover, and joker before we all had exhausted our collective tarot knowledge.

“I can do aura readings,” one guy volunteered.

We all raised an eyebrow at this admission. This came from a guy you wouldn’t expect to admit to supernatural dealings. He was a clean-cut, city guy who had a respectable, ordinary job. At first I thought he was joking, because he was outrageously humorous during the entire workshop and our talk of tarot cards got a bit on the ridiculous side. I thought he was continuing the joke. Shows how unworldly I really am, because the guy proceeded to do a pretty good reading on my friend. Granted, we’d all been together for a week now and he probably had a good handle on each of us, but it was still good, even if he was just majorly observant.

We all got excited about his super-talent and each of us begged for a reading. It started out normal enough.

When he started reading me he looked a little concerned and I thought it was because he wasn’t able to come up with anything original or hidden like he was able to do with the others. It’s a lot more impressive to do a reading when a psychic can surprise people in the room. But again, we were playing around, not really serious. Amateurs…or so I thought.

“I, uh…” the guy paused, his focus not on me anymore, but on an empty space next to me. “I don’t know how to say this.” He looked a little embarrassed and I suddenly wondered what about me he’d found out, or maybe this was the set up to some joke. We all giggled and teased as if that was the intent, but he quieted them all with a look. “It’s not really something funny. Hey, I’ll just be out with it. I’m sometimes a medium for ghosts and there’s one here now.”

We all silenced. Either we were all waiting for the punch line, or wondered how to politely leave the room while this guy had some sort of mental breakdown. But since I was used to psychics by now (remember in my last post I talked about attending a local psychic meeting?), I waited patiently. It didn’t matter that I’d wouldn’t get a reading, and this might be more fun anyway.

There was some confusion as to who the ghost was and whom the ghost belonged to. It was apparently the ghost of someone’s grandfather. The grandpa would have to have been around to see part of our childhood. And I instantly was out. My grandfather was still alive and the other one died before I was born.

But the guy kept coming back to me. “Are you sure you don’t have a dead grandfather? He seems to be fixated on you.”

“I don’t have a dead grandfather that was around when I was young. I have a dead great-grandfather I knew.”

“This would be a parent of one of your parents.”

“I don’t know who it could be.” And I didn’t.

“He’s showing me a picture of when you were born. He died when you were really young. I think. Maybe two.

Well, that’s convenient, I thought. I won’t be able to say one way or the other since I would be too young to know if what the ghost whisperer is telling the truth or not.

“He had some connection to Las Vegas.

Nope again. I drew a huge blank.

“He’s showing me a picture of an arch.”

I still had no idea.

“He’s showing me a picture of a Native-American baby? Like on a board on someone’s back?”

The others in the room were trying to connect the ghost to someone else. Maybe a hotel worker? Maybe a really confused ghost? They all offered plausible suggestions. Remember: writers.

But something he said stuck with me. I remembered a story my mother had told about how my dad’s dad had called me a little papoose when I was born. So, he had to have been alive when I was born at least. I’d remembered incorrectly, but now I realized who it could be.

“Wait,” I said. “I didn’t realize it, but my dad’s dad was alive when I was born. I’m not sure when he died, but it must have been not long after I was born. Also, people called him ‘Archie.'”

We all sighed with relief. After realizing the ghost was there for me, it seemed to pick up a bit. Except for the fact I know nothing about this relative. Big fat nothing. Only a few clips of things here and there.

“He had land around here, Vegas maybe?”

“I wouldn’t know.”

Most of the information was a dead-end since I couldn’t confirm or deny. Then it got weird.

I love writing workshops, not necessary being haunted when I attend them.

The ghost explained how he’d have dreams and act them out for my dad and his siblings. This seemed to be a point of regret for the ghost. Then the insistence of the dreams became a more serious matter. For one, they were acting out deaths of some kind.

One of the other writers started to get agitated about our little impromptu séance. I didn’t blame him. This ghost was a little messed up. The guy who was acting as the interpreter seemed just as spooked as the rest of us. He wanted to stop, but the things he was saying did seem important. Our ghost medium informed us that my grandfather had a problem with the guy who was freaking out. My grandfather told him to “Shape up. Act like a man.” And a few other bully-ish comments. This was more on par about what I knew about my grandfather.

On to the deaths, which my grandfather corrected were murders of some kind. He described one particular death in detail, which I won’t describe here. It was using a very specific weapon, a very specific way.

Did he work for the mob? The others questioned. Not that I knew of.

Did he kill someone and hide the body? Yeesh.

This seemed really strange. And at this point we all decided to tell the ghost to go away. It was too freaky. For one, the ghost started calling me Lily Ann. A name very, very similar to a family member who I somewhat resemble on my dad’s side. He was referring to our interpreter by my dad’s name (and this guy did look pretty similar to my dad, one of reasons we think it attracted my grandfather). The ghost did leave, but not before he insisted I deliver a message to my dad that he “was sorry.”

It was late at night and so I went to bed, with the lights on. The next morning I packed for my flight home. The events of the night still confused me. I had no way of confirming them, unless I called my parents. I spoke to my mom first, gauging how my dad might react to this news. He doesn’t believe in psychics, just that people might have a really keen sense of observation, or really great Internet sleuthing skills to trick people.

I ended up on the phone with my dad and he straightened out a few things.

I was two when Grandpa died, people called my grandpa “Arch” for an even shorter version of his nickname, and he did own real estate near Las Vegas. So in all the areas I thought were not quite right during the reading were in fact spot on.

Then came the hard part.

“Did grandpa ever kill anyone?”

My dad didn’t hesitate. “He killed a lot of people. He fought in WWII.”

I then described the very specific death, one that no one would ever find described on the internet and never will. It’s not really something that can be guessed either, it was that specific.

“That did happen,” My dad confirmed. “Or at least, it’s a story he told from the war.”

I explained the weird part, the part about grandpa acting this out for his children. And I wondered how disturbed my grandpa must have been. And now that he’d maybe found some relief in death he must have regretted it.

“My dad never really talked about the war, but when he drank he’d have something like flashbacks. He likely had PTSD, before people really accepted it as a problem.”

This made a lot of sense. Especially the insistence of the medium that this was a “good ghost”. A lot of the other writers the night before started to say my grandpa was an evil spirit and this turned out to not be true. The medium had said that my grandfather had felt trapped into these murders and felt justified for them at the time. Although he struggled with the deaths years later. Just as someone who fought in a war might feel.

Then I gave my dad the last message:

“He says he’s sorry for that.” I assumed the flashbacks, the drinking, the not being fully present because my grandfather had been haunted by his own ghosts.

There was a long pause before my dad answered. “He didn’t have anything to be sorry for.”

I was able to get a message to the guy who saw my grandfather’s ghost and told us this information. It did make him relieved that it turned out to be a war and not that my grandfather was some mob hit man. It was also interesting to hear some family history, although not a very conventional way of learning it. And that’s so far the only time I’ve been involved in an accidental séance, but I did spend the night in a haunted house on accident. I’ll tell that one on Friday :)

I love comments! Every time you leave a comment–well, I get a comment and I love them. So comment away!

Spooktaular October

door

Welcome to spooktaular October.  I have a real live ghost story to tell.  (Maybe live is the wrong word, and it may not have been a ghost, but it scared the eight-year-old version of me so I will share it with you.)

I had finally gotten to the ripe old age where I could take a bath and be trusted not to squirt the entire bottle of Pert into the water or forget to wash. I was a Big Girl.  And I had a brother and a dad and I craved some privacy.  The parents and the brother sat watching television in the living room while I locked the bathroom door and slipped into the tub. Deep into applying enough shampoo to create a lovely pointed foamy cone, I felt a wave of cold run down my back and raise the tiny hairs on the back of my neck.  The room felt arctic and I swear I could see my breath, my whole body shook.

Then a rattle.

I knew. Absolutely, beyond the glimmer of a clever-second-grader’s doubt, that I had locked the door.

The lock twisted.

From the inside.

My breath stopped. My lungs shriveled and I couldn’t take in air, and then the doorknob turned and the door swung open.  No. One. Was. There.  My airless lungs couldn’t send a scream, only a hoarse, strangled whisper clawed from my throat.  “Mom! Mom!” My heart nearly exploded. The cold feeling intensified and I felt…something there.  I tried to scream again.  Nothing came out.  I had to act. I forced myself up and snatched a towel, wrapped it around me, and ran into the living room.

Three pairs of eyes stared at me, standing, dripping and trying to speak.  I don’t remember much of what happened next, except I was told to go back and rinse my hair and stop being so silly.  All I know is that from then on I never doubted that there is more in heaven and earth that is dreamt of in our philosophies.  And going to the bathroom became an exercise in fear control.  Eventually, I stopped being scared of the bathroom, but I did think the knots in the stained wood of the door always seemed to be looking at me, unblinking. Waiting.

What about you guys?  Any spooky encounters that you can’t explain?  Please share or just say hi.

The Last Day

Today is it. The last day of 100 Days Of Good Karma. There’s some Internet science quote. I don’t know if it’s right and I’m too lazy to look it up to be exact, but it’s something about it taking only thirty days to create a habit. If we do something over and over it will eventually sink in. I don’t know if that’s true. I don’t know if finding a silver lining to each day helped me think more positively. I don’t think this experience has made me more enlightened or elevated me to the next stage of self-awareness.

But I do know this:

There were a few things I noticed about trying think of a positive anecdote every day. One, some days it was hard and I was tempted to phone it in. Nobody would notice if I sneaked tacos in as my silver lining for another day….although tacos are amazing and so worthy. But I worked hard to come up with things that were real. It was hard because most days I have a routine and I work through the day and don’t stop to really analyze it much. Other days are just blah, normal, same. Nothing special. But coming up with a silver lining forced me to be present in the day, it gave me permission to stop and evaluate the blah with a different lens.

Good news! My parents can finally park in their garage!

Good news! My parents can finally park in their garage!

Another thing I know is that I was very concerned with being real. I have training as a counselor and I became very self-conscious of the image I was projecting out. I’m not a pretender. I like to be honest with how I feel, so it was important to me to not have the Karma for the day be a sugar coated version of my life. Being positive does not mean being fake. Early on in the project I confessed to Meghan (Getting the Words Wrong) that I had some guilt over coming up with positive things when there were so many things going wrong for other people. Was I being a Pollyanna? Was I inadvertently taking away someone’s validation to express pain? By showing I wanted to remain positive each day, would that send the right message? In the end I decided to take points from the best example of someone doing it right. For example, Meghan’s ability to share the realness and horror of cancer mixed with humor and grace. Her blog is amazing and everyone should check it out.

The last thing I learned was that looking for the biggest thing was like chasing a rainbow. It’s beautiful to aspire to, but in reality the “best” thing or “something better” would always move. Things became “not big enough to mention” or “boring.” At some point, I stopped caring about the big deal things. In the beginning of the project I was doing small acts of kindness. I left coupons on items at stores, I bought a random person’s coffee, I gave money to a guy downtown in a wheel chair that had a sign saying he survived cancer and had fallen on hard times, I left tips at places I don’t usually think to leave a tip. But sharing those things became too hard. I didn’t do them to get a pat on the back, so I didn’t post it on Facebook. It took away the joy of the activity. I also think I was doing them because I had survivors guilt. *MY* house didn’t burn down. *I* didn’t have cancer. I thought I needed to make up for that slight, or accept eventual punishment coming my way. Funny how we talk ourselves out of grief.

In the end the simplest parts of the day became the most cherished and most interesting. I didn’t have to ride a Pegasus, or go on a cross county journey planting non-GMO corn across America Johnny Appleseed style—the most fulfilling part of my day became a simple conversation with my kids or spending time with family.

(although random acts of kindness sounds like an awesome project for another time).

Chica, my parent's dog, surveys the property

Chica, my parent’s dog, surveys the property

And so what did I do on my last day? Ironically I ended it where it all began. I stayed with my parents in their trailer. The place where the house once stood is roughly a 2,000 square-foot hole in the ground. From the view out of the trailer I could see the room where my husband, kids, and I would stay when we came for holidays or just a quick weekend to hang out with family. There are steps that lead to nothing and are stained with the smoky reminder of what happened 100 days ago.

The house debris is gone, but the trees and bricks around the area are still holding the scars.

The house debris is gone, but the trees and bricks around the area are still holding the scars.

It doesn’t look like much now, but I’ve seen the plans for what’s going to be put in its place and if I close my eyes I can see the front porch that will extend much farther than the one that was there before. I see the outline of my parent’s new room where they’ll have more space. I see a kitchen that will be open to the living room and where my kids will eat never ending pancakes, which my dad sometimes calls dot cakes because he makes them super small to make the kids laugh. There are a lot of things that my parent’s can’t get back, but those things were not important. We will make a new measuring wall. We’ll make new family heirlooms; we’ll cherish the ones we still have and talk more about the people who left them to us. We don’t need things to help us remember the people we loved.

I also spent the day at my grandma’s house at Sunday dinner. My great-grandmother started the tradition. She’d have her whole family over every Sunday and my family still does this today. We annoy each other with jokes, we eat too many carbs, we horde the gravy boat….okay, maybe only I horde the gravy boat. And there is always a seat for one more person who happens to stop by on their way to town.

So maybe it’s hard to think of a silver lining each day, let alone a hundred days. In Megan’s post this morning she talks about her cure for a bad day. And it’s really simple: going for a walk (she says run. I don’t run), thinking of something positive for the next day, and a good night’s sleep. When I’m in a spiral of negative thinking I have a go-to plan that I pull out, too. Just like some people have a survival pack that they can grab on the go for an emergency, I have an emotional survival pack. Hint: it’s pretty much the same as Meghan’s (there must be something to that).

If you’re one of those people who can’t find that positive nugget for the day then maybe stop looking for the obvious rainbow, and start looking for it in the dirt that you grow your own vegetables in, or the smile on your child’s face. Look for a sliver lining in the simple things.

Real Life Ghost Stories Part One: Power Animals

When I first heard about power animals I probably giggled. Who doesn’t imagine a moose with a cape, boots on every hoof, who is tripping down a rocky mountainside? Oh? You don’t? Maybe it’s just me.

But seriously, don’t kid around with power animals. Just don’t. Below is my cautionary tail:

We all have interesting moments in our life. Moments where we did something completely off the beaten path and chose to try something different? For me one of those times was when I accidently became part of a local psychic group.

Okay, okay. It wasn’t exactly “accidental” and being “part of” the group wasn’t exactly an accurate term. It was more like they allowed me to attend the meetings for a little over a year and I became an observer and learner of the culture.

It started when I found out someone I knew (a friend) had some psychic abilities. It was uncanny the things she could do/guess. A lot of people argue that being psychic is just being more observational than the rest of the general population and if that’s *all* it is then it’s a talent indeed. I was/am slightly skeptical. They knew this about me and still were completely fine with me attending. I learned about raki, shamanism, eastern medicine practices, how the dead communicate with us, Wiccan rituals…I learned a ton of different things. It was pretty cool. Mostly they let me ask questions and take notes. They hoped that I could “use some of the stuff in my writing.” To me this was science fiction and to them “it’s real”– was a common joke between the group members and me.

But one of the most interesting things that really seemed to speak to me was the concept of power animals. Maybe it was my Native American heritage and the fact that this was not a new concept to me, but I really liked the idea of animals bringing certain messages to us. Just like any cultural concept, power animals (or spirit animals, or totem animals) have a variety of facets, uses, and whatever. It is sort of another type of horoscope (I know, most people find those unhelpful. If you don’t find it helpful, then it won’t be, but there is no harm in it, I figure, since it’s nothing that will alter my decision based on the outcome or message. Or maybe it just reaffirms a decision I would have made regardless. Whatever).

Anyway, a few months ago I saw a turtle on my morning walk. Usually I see all sorts of squirrels, scrub jays (sort of like a really mean bully-ish blue jay), worms, various bugs. Being it’s not a common animal to spot on my daily walk, I took note of it (read as: I took pictures and texted them to Pam, who loves turtles). At the time it was just a fun animal finding. I did look up the animal’s meaning (needing, providing protection—stay strong despite obstacles, being overwhelmed, preparing to make your home anywhere). The next day I saw a group of deer in the same area. This again was not a common animal spotting (not a squirrel, not a scrub jay, not a worm or beetle) so I took some pictures and looked those up, too (don’t be hard on yourself, you can’t change others, be at peace with other’s decisions, or things you can’t fix/change). I saw a group of rabbits (protection from fear brought on by illness, tragedy/disaster). This same week in the same spot, I’d see other various animals that pretty much could be put in this category all adding up to “some bad things are going to happen and I’d need to protect myself emotionally.”

Needless to say that Power Animals became not as fun at that point, because two weeks after my turtle sighting my parent’s house burned down and my friend found out she had cancer. And that was just the tip of it. After the main events happened, the animals stopped appearing on my morning walk.

Lesson: don’t mess with power animals.

Okay, got it, Power Animals. You’re not just a fun, light pastime like horoscope reading or tarot cards or ouija boards at sleepovers (All things my psychic friends giggled at and would give me a look that would say “that’s adorable” when I’d mention them).

So I’m not really a huge believer, but that power animal experience was enough to make me not look at it the same. It’s sort of like when you burn yourself (which only takes once) and learn to take the fire a little more seriously.

So last week I saw a group of wild turkeys in that same spot. I literally stopped in my tracks and paused. I might have held my breath. I didn’t move until they were gone. Then I walked a little quicker back to the house. I know, it’s funny, but this is how superstitions are created right? The next day there were cats, tons of them. All frolicking and pouncing in the same field where I saw the turtle, deer, turkeys, ect. I sort of wondered if crazy cat lady had unleashed her collection. The next day just one cat, a black one that settled herself/himself directly in my path and her/his tail flicked while I carefully walked around it. Her/his gaze followed me the whole time. Today I had three cats do this to me, one in that same spot, and two later on in the walk.

Okay! I get it, cats. You have a message I’m guessing? So I looked it up and so far it looks like something more positive this time. Yay!

Or Northern California really needs to crack down on its domesticated homeless cat problem.

I love comments! Every time you comment, share your spooky story below, or heckle mine a power animal will burst through the psychic plane to taunt a non-believer.