I Don’t Believe in Ghosts or Haunted Houses. …Except for When I Do.

One of my guilty pleasures is watching some of those ghost-hunting TV programs.  I generally sit, rolling my eyes and laughing out loud when these explorers of the supernatural get all excited over cold spots and orbs and weird feelings of being watched by something they can’t see.

Orbs?  EMF meters that chart the appearance of otherworldly beings based on some sort of disruption in electrical patterns?  Oh, give me a break.  Who decided that this proves that spirits are on the prowl?  And for that matter, why do the people on those shows only explore supposedly haunted locations at night?  Do they really think that ghosts care whether it’s day or night when they want to rattle their chains and utter unearthly moans?  Do ghosts even know whether it’s day or night?  But never mind.  All of this is just harmless entertainment.

Except those times when I climb into bed, turn out the lights and lie there, alone in my house, and start to remember little snippets from the program I watched a few hours earlier.  Sure, I still think those shows are all a bunch of hooey.  …Until I hear a floorboard creak somewhere beyond my bedroom door.  Or there’s a peculiar rattling noise that doesn’t match the sound of anything else I’ve ever heard in my house.  Or the cat sleeping at the foot of the bed suddenly sits up and stares wide-eyed through the open doorway…

What was funny and ridiculous in a well-lit room with a blaring television is a little less so now.

I know, I know.  I’ve just worked myself up into a highly suggestible state.  And then I vow not to watch any of those dumb shows any more.  But I bet you can figure out how long that promise lasts.

And since we’re on the topic, I will go ahead and confess that back in my college days, I lived in a haunted house for a while.  Or so it seemed.  I tell myself there was a logical explanation for everything that happened.  Plus, it was a long time ago, and it was the only experience I’ve ever had with anything even vaguely supernatural.  If you don’t count the inexplicable popularity of The Kardashians, that isBut I’ll let you judge for yourself just how far off the rails I’ve gone when you hear the story.

A buddy and I rented a small house on a sizable plot of overgrown land on a quiet back street in our small college town.  And all was fine at first.  When things started to pick up, they did so in true horror-movie fashion, a little at a time and then snowballing.  Burners on the stove turned on by themselves.  Or did they?  Maybe it was just some sort of a gas leak.  We kept coming home to find the back door standing open.  All right, fine.  We were college kids, and a little careless in our comings and goings, probably.  Posters and pictures would fall off the wall.  Well, no mystery there.  Probably we hadn’t hung them securely to begin with.  …Right?

It was this last thing that actually steered us toward a theory, however.  A couple of weeks earlier, my roommate had found an old picture in the shed on the property behind the house.  This portrait had been nailed to the wall.  Facing the wall, that is.  He’d pried it loose and decided to bring it into the house and hang it in his bedroom.  It depicted a beautiful young woman in a blue robe, wearing a benevolent smile and holding a lily in the crook of her arm.  There was one bizarre aspect, as well.  A rope was tied around the young woman’s neck, trailing off to what appeared to be a metal hitching post.  Yeah, you read that correctly.  Tied around the neck.  To a hitching post.

None of the odd events in the house started happening until after the painting came inside.  And maybe the strangest thing of all is why we would want a portrait like this in the place.  Nevertheless, with that said, I must add that this portrait was the only thing hanging on any of the walls that never fell.

Okay, okay.  I know it all sounds far-fetched.  Absurd.  As cheesey as anything on those ghost-hunting programs.  But once my roomie and I had discussed aloud the coincidence that none of the strange happenings started until after the picture’s arrival, things got really interesting. It was as though we had invited something to show us what it was fully capable of doing.

We could lock the back door, deadbolt it, turn away for thirty seconds and turn back to find the door standing wide open again.   Heavy pictures, secured to the wall with eyebolts, would crash to the floor, sometimes when our backs were turned, sometimes while we watched.  Yet the eyebolts were still firmly embedded in the wall, suggesting something had to have actually lifted them off their hooks.  Now and again, drawn window shades would abruptly shoot up, flapping wildly around their rollers.  When things really got going, all twelve window shades in the house would do this, one after the other.

This happened day or night, whether just one of us was home, or both.  It was pretty unsettling, yet I can’t say that I ever felt a sense of menace associated with it.  What I marvel at most was the fact that I could be home alone, be awakened in the middle of the night to the sound of something crashing to the ground, and all I would do would be to turn on the light, look around, then shut it off again, roll over and go back to sleep.  Does that say that the human spirit can adapt to all kinds of strange developments, or does it just speak to mere stupidity on my part?

We’d checked with our landlord, who had no idea where that picture had come from or how it had wound up in the shed behind the property.  Nor did he care what we did with it, so when our lease was up at the end of the year, my roommate gave the picture to a friend of his who reported later that as he was driving back to Boulder, the thing had blown off the back of his motorcycle, somewhere in the plains of northeastern Colorado, never to be seen again.  By me, anyway.

Now, I don’t really believe the portrait was haunted, or that it caused the peculiar things that happened in our house that year.  But, with that said, let me add that if you should ever run across a picture of a pretty young woman in a blue robe, tied around the neck with a rope, you can keep it.

I’ve got enough scary things in my life, as it is.  A mortage.  A suspicious looking mole on the back of my neck.  And that whole Kardashian thing.  I don’t need anything else keeping me up at night.

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